Nurses rally at Methodist for more, well, nurses

Union says Methodist is a few nurses shy of a load

Nurses took to the street in front of New York Methodist Hospital on Monday to demand a beefed-up nursing staff to alleviate what they said is a patient-to-nurse ratio that is twice the industry standard.

The nurses’ contract — which mandates one nurse for a maximum of six patients — expired on Sunday night, so staffers picketed the Park Slope institution the next day, complaining that the hospital employs one nurse for every 10 patients.

“For the past six years, we’ve had nurse-patient ratios in our contracts, but the hospital never complied,” said Allyson Selby, a nurse at the Sixth Street hospital.

“The right amount of staffing does equate to an increase in patient care,” said Selby.

A hospital spokeswoman disagreed that more nurses mean better treatment for patients.

“Recent research has demonstrated that staffing ratios do not necessarily guarantee better care or outcomes,” said Lyn Hill, the hospital spokeswoman. “Staffing is only one of many factors that can be measured to evaluate patient care.”

A review of a state health database suggests that Hill has some statistical basis to back her up.

Given an average nurse salary of $100,000 with benefits, “the hospital [cannot] sustain an increase in the staffing of registered nurses,” Hill added.

The nurses’ union said that times are tough on hospitals everywhere, but added that “Methodist is unique in its higher patient-to-nurse ratios,” said union negotiator, Elaine Charpentier.

She added that the just-expired contract wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on because its nurse-patient guidelines went unenforced.

“We want a meaningful enforcement mechanism that makes a consequence for short staffing that doesn’t fall just on the nurse,” said Charpentier.

It’s not the first time that staffing levels at the hospital have made headlines. Last year, the hospital said it would add staff in its ER after hearing complaints on the Park Slope Parents Web site.