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Council hears concerns of staff shortages at hospitals

Mike Desmond/wbfo news

Members of the Council's Legislation Committee were told Tuesday of the problems of thinly-staffed hospitals and what it means for patients. The session was part of a push for Albany to mandate staffing levels in hospitals and nursing homes.

It's a push across much of the country to mandate minimum staffing levels, something California has already done. A series of nurses told stories of how often patients are shortchanged because there just aren't enough nurses on the floors.

Registered Nurse Melanie Mendez says in her most recent shift she had seven patients.
"For each medication administration time, I'm allotted the hour before and the hour of and that's considered an on-time medication," Mendez related. 

"So, in those two hours, I must medicate seven people, which means I have roughly 17 minutes with each patient during each medication. That's not considering time for answering questions, addressing new issues, toileting, feeding or any other patient needs."

Another nurse, Cindy Orsolits, told of a patient dying because there were so many patients coming into her triage area and the hospital didn't send help. She said the patient's situation went bad quickly and with up to 28 patients being checked into the hospital and it wasn't caught fast enough. Orsolits says her unnamed hospital's chief medical officer admitted problems.
"That's impossible, for one nurse to be responsible for all those patients. He said, 'We let you down,'" she said.

Council President Darius Pridgen says major surgery a year ago showed how important nurses are in care.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.