Nursing unions announce rally in support of bill to enforce staffing standards amid nurse shortage
Nurses across New Jersey who served on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic are demanding action from state lawmakers. They are planning a rally in May in support of a bill that would set minimum staffing levels for health care workers at hospitals and other health care facilities.
“The pandemic did not create the nursing shortage, it only aggravated it,” says Elfrieda Johnson, board president of JNESO.
The nurses say that they want the state to stand with them and pass the bill.
“This is an issue of saving lives and improving medical outcomes for everyone,” says Michele Liebtag, political and education director of CWA Local 1036.
The State House rally is scheduled for May 11. The nurses say that they hope that the bill will relieve pressure on what they say is an overworked and underpaid labor force that is losing numbers by the day.
“Yes, we need to recruit nurses. Absolutely. The problem right now is as we recruit nurses, they leave at the same rate,” says Debbie White, president of HPAE.
The bill – which has languished in the state Legislature since 2020 - sets staffing standards, including one nurse for every five patients in a medical or surgical unit.
“Now, more than ever, we need to pass this bill to stop the exodus from our hospitals,” says Democratic state Sen. Linda Greenstein.
Greenstein sponsored the bill. She says she and other advocates feel that it’s the least the state can do to honor nurses who served during the pandemic.
“I really think the time has come to say, ‘Thank you,’ to each and every one of them by passing this bill,” says Charlie Wowkanech, president of NJ AFL-CIO.
“We need to stop the bleed. We need to stop nurses from migrating out of the profession. The way to do this, is to legislate enforceable staffing standards. Hospitals will never do this unless they’re mandated by law,” says White.
The bill has spent a year waiting for a committee hearing.