Nurses from all over New Jersey who were on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic want state lawmakers to do something. They are planning a rally in May to support a bill that would set minimum staffing levels for healthcare workers in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
“The pandemic didn’t cause the shortage of nurses; it just made it worse,” says Elfrieda Johnson, president of the board of JNESO.
The nurses want the state to support them and pass the bill, they say.
“This is about saving lives and making everyone’s health better,” says Michele Liebtag, who is in charge of politics and education at CWA Local 1036.
The rally at the State House is set to happen on May 11. The nurses say that they hope the bill will relieve pressure on what they call an overworked and underpaid labor force that is losing members every day.
“Yes, we do need to find nurses. Absolutely. “Right now, the problem is that as fast as we hire nurses, they leave,” says Debbie White, president of HPAE.
The bill has been stuck in the state legislature since 2020. It sets staffing standards, such as having one nurse for every five patients in a medical or surgical unit.
Democratic state Sen. Linda Greenstein says, “We need to pass this bill now more than ever to stop people from leaving our hospitals.”
The bill was backed by Greenstein. She says that she and other advocates think it’s the least the state can do to honour nurses who worked during the pandemic.
Charlie Wowkanech, president of NJ AFL-CIO, says, “I really think it’s time to say ‘thank you’ to each and every one of them by passing this bill.”
“The bleeding has to stop. We need to stop nurses from leaving the field in large numbers. This can be done by making staffing standards that can be enforced by the law. White says, “Hospitals will never do this unless it’s required by law.”