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Catholic Health System nurses say they're dangerously understaffed

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Dozens of nurses, including those who serve as leaders in the union representing them, staged a vigil outside St. Joseph's Hospital in Cheektowaga, saying that the Catholic Health System is subjecting nurses - and especially their patients - to unsafe staffing shortages.

The nurses lined up along Harlem Road, supporting a lengthy string of documents, which were complaints listing conditions including what they say were unacceptable ratios of nurses to patients, sometimes twice as many patients to nurses than recommended.

Some of those speaking say their complaints to management have fallen in deaf ears. So, they're bringing their message to the public.

"Things go on in silence and more people know this is what we're working towards. It's not 'oh, those nurses want more money'," said Deborah Arnet, a registered nurse and president of Communication Workers of America 1133. "The nurses want safe staffing levels so we can deliver the best care we can to the patients who deserve it. They are the reason why we're here."

Among the statistics released by CWA are figures bv the Journal of the American Medical Association, which reported in 2002 that the likelihood of a patient's death increases by seven percent for each additional patient that a nurse must take on at one time. The report adds that hospitals which staff with a 1:8 nurse-to-patient ratio have five additional deaths per 1,000 patients than hospitals which staff at a 1:4 ratio.

Two local lawmakers were on hand to show their support. One of them, Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke, spoke of his original plan to pursue a career in nursing and how he was exposed firsthand to the working conditions these nurses are protesting. The other lawmaker was State Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak, who is one of numerous co-sponsors of the Safe Staffing Act in Albany. She urged the governor to help push for a quick vote on the bill.

"I'm calling upon Governor Cuomo to call a special session," she said. "This week legislators will be in Albany."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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