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Hospital must pay nurses for staffing violations, arbitrator rules

Found some NYU Langone-Brooklyn units were understaffed


An independent arbitrator found that NYU Langone-Brooklyn repeatedly violated contractual nurse staffing ratios and must pay the nurses who worked these shifts the average wage of the missing nurses, the United Federation of Teachers announced Friday.

In a Dec. 18 decision, arbitrator James A. Brown determined that the hospital understaffed nurses in two medical-surgical units during 20 shifts between November and December 2022. He also found that a critical care step-down unit did not have the contractual nurse-to-patient ratio during 12 shifts between March and May 2022.

The medical-surgical unit is supposed to have one nurse for every five patients, while there should be one nurse for every three patients in the critical care step-down unit, according to a press release from the union, which represents about 1,000 nurses at the hospital.

Brown ruled that the nurses who worked during the shifts in question are entitled to split the average wage of the missing nurses, which is about $750 to $800 per shift for each nurse. He noted that in instances where the hospital failed to fully staff a unit but made a "good-faith effort," the hospital must pay one-quarter of the average wage of the unstaffed nurses for the first violation, which will be split among the nurses who worked those shifts. For a second violation, Langone must pay half of the average wage of the unstaffed nurses, three-quarters of a shift’s wage for a third infraction, and the full shift wage for a fourth.

The union did not say how many nurses are eligible for compensation as part of the arbitrator’s award, or how much they are expected to receive.

UFT Vice President Anne Goldman, the head of the Federation of Nurses/UFT, said that chronic understaffing at the hospital has drained the nurses’ morale. “We just feel so aggrieved because we want to be as spectacular as the hospital claims to be, and you just can’t do that without enough nurses,” she told The Chief during a phone interview.

Sets a precedent

In a statement to news outlet The City, NYU Langone spokesperson Steve Ritea said that the hospital has made “good-faith” efforts to maintain contractual staffing ratios, including by hiring travel nurses.

“Despite UFT’s reckless claims, we have worked tirelessly to address appropriate staffing in our units and union leadership knows that. We are pleased that the arbitrator’s decision recognized our extensive efforts to recruit and adequately staff our units,” he said.

This is the second ruling in the past month that found nurse staffing violations at NYU Langone-Brooklyn. The union called the earlier decision “precedent-setting” because it imposed a financial penalty for the violations, creating an incentive for the hospital to hire and retain nurses.

Arbitrator Howard Edelman determined in a Dec. 1 ruling that a different medical-surgical unit was understaffed on 47 occasions between May and August 2022. The nurses who worked during these shifts will receive about $37,000 in total compensation, according to The City.

“These are the first steps that allow a financial disincentive, so we’re delighted,” Goldman said of the rulings. She added that the union plans to continue to report any staffing violations. Short-staffing grievances for 13 other units are still pending, the UFT noted.

The state enacted safe-staffing laws in 2021, but the Sunset Park hospital has faced chronic understaffing, the union alleged. The UFT has filed more than 3,800 complaints of contractual staffing ratio violations over the last two years.

In August, the union sent a letter to state Health Commissioner James McDonald calling on the Department of Health alleging that routine understaffing at NYU Langone-Brooklyn has put patients at risk, and called for an investigation into the matter.  

The hospital vehemently denied these claims. A DOH probe is ongoing, according to the union.

“They’ve had over two years to correct this themselves,” Goldman said. Between the financial penalties and the public finding out about the violations, “it is our hope that … they’ll get the message they can’t do this anymore,” she added.


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