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Senator Wants State Hospital Staffing Info Made Public

Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, is pictured at a community event in Hyde Park. Submitted Photo

State Sen. Sue Serino wants to make information about staffing shortages in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities available to everyone.

Serino, R-Hyde Park, recently introduced S.7437 in the state Senate. It would require the state Health Department to post on its website the total number of people employed or affiliated with health care facilities, people who are no longer employed by the facilities, the number of requested personnel from the state Surge and Flex Operations Center and the number of people sent to health care facilities by the state. Serino’s bill calls for the information to be posted retroactively back to Aug. 16, 2021.

The legislation has been referred to the Rules Committee and won’t be acted upon until the state Legislature returns to session in January, though it faces an uphill battle even then.

Locally, there have been some staffing issues that have come to light. The Brooks-TLC Hospital System announced earlier this month that the hospital was temporarily reducing labor and delivery services at the hospital in consultation with the state Health Department and working with regional partners. In Jamestown, the shortage of nurses in the labor and delivery department at UPMC Chautauqua WCA was noted by Dr. Robert Daniels of Lane Women’s Health Group, who told The Post-Journal there hasn’t been an impact on the labor and delivery yet in Jamestown. But Daniels said nurses are working additional shifts to make sure there is no impact on expectant mothers.

“The problem is nurses are in great demand throughout the entire state, so they’re really trying to recruit obstetric nurses and nurses of all sorts, but there’s just no one around to really fill in these gaps that we have,” he said, adding that they will not be easier to replace. “We have separate nurses, very specialized nurses who work on the second-year resident level. They’re really good and they really know their OB-GYN. You can’t bring somebody in from the National Guard or you can’t bring some visiting nurses in to take over because it’s not a regular nursing job — it’s a very specialized job with very special skills. We’re in a precarious position; hopefully, all these people will hold on until all this stuff is straightened out. Without good nursing, you cannot have good care.”

Serino noted similar reports from around the state as reason to enact S.7437. The Surge and Flex Center is supposed to help nursing homes find solutions to staffing problems and to help nursing homes if they can’t meet their obligations under state law. The New York Post reported earlier this month that facilities are calling the staffing hotline only to be told no help is available. Serino said at the time the issue has been prevalent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, not just since the state’s vaccine mandate for health care facilities took effect.

On Sept. 27, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order to alleviate staffing shortages by authorizing out-of-state and retired professionals and recent graduates to practice in New York.

“Media reports indicate that multiple long term care facilities are being told by the Operations Center’s hotline that there is no staffing available,” Serino wrote in her legislative justification. “Furthermore, it appears there is a clear miscommunication going on between the state and health care facilities in what staffing assistance is potentially available to fill the needs of these facilities, which is causing unnecessary confusion at a time when it is critical that all stakeholders are on the same page in terms of the facts in order to adequately address the ongoing staffing crisis.”

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