If the primary reason for striking like Senator Bernie Sanders claimed in his “field hearing” this morning is for the safety of patients, nurses would be at their bedside. The United Steelworkers Union, which represents the RWJUH nurses, has declined numerous offers from RWJUH to increase staffing levels, including measures that would provide additional compensation to nurses if staffing requirements are not met.
RWJUH maintains one of most favorable patient-to-nurse staffing ratios in the state including having the lowest patient-to-nurse ratio in the ER and fifth lowest patient-to-nurse ratio in the ICU. New Jersey is also among the top five states best prepared to weather a healthcare crisis based on available ICU beds and physician-to-patient ratios. Yet Senator Sanders is attempting to convince us that New Jersey has inadequate staffing ratios and is in a staffing crisis when he should be looking at his state, Vermont.
Vermont has among the worst hospital staffing shortages in the nation and while New Jersey is one of the most prepared for a healthcare crisis, Vermont is one of the least prepared states for a healthcare crisis based on the same standards. It’s clear Senator Sanders is using this strike as an opportunity to insert himself in the news and gain political stature, but he should be focusing on fixing the healthcare problems in his state.
We will continue supporting our dedicated nurses who we know want to care for patients but it’s time Senator Sanders and the Union stop playing politics and end negotiations once and for all.