The Alabama State Nurses Association is continuing our response to the COVID-19 pandemic by sending signed letters to every Alabama legislator to fight for the rights of Alabama nurses. In part, the ASNA president is saying the following to Alabama legislators:
I am the President of the Alabama State Nurses Association. We are the professional nursing organization that has represented the interest of Alabama nurses of all specialties for over 107 years. On behalf of thousands of Alabama nurses, I am appealing to our federal elected officials to include nurses in the financial assistance plans designed to help workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis remain solvent until providers reopen affected units. As we navigate the COVID 19 pandemic, we have already identified a great paradox in how we as a nation have addressed critical aspects of it. What we as professional nurses have experienced at the local level is also critical. As hospitals geared up for the onslaught of the crisis, they suspended such things as elective surgeries which resulted in funding shortfalls and ultimately the layoff of many nurses. At the very time that we need all hands-on deck, we are pushing the very people we need the most out the door. We simply don’t know what the impact of a surge will create in any given hospital, so it is crucial that we maintain the existing staff. Research has indicated time and time again that positive patient outcomes are directly correlated to nurse/patient ratios, therefore, it is imperative that safe staffing levels are maintained at all times.
In the retail setting, we have determined that federal funding should be provided to keep workers employed while the crisis persists, but paradoxically, in healthcare we have not! My request for our frontline providers is that any crisis funding for healthcare facilities be allocated to them with the caveat that healthcare workers remain on staff for the period anticipated by the funding. This will ensure that ample staff are available and ready to be deployed where they are needed the most to deliver quality, safe, and efficient care to our patients. Currently, there are more than 100,000 licensed nurses in Alabama. Only a few facilities in the state have been able to provide leave at normal wage levels. Most have closed large numbers of beds – are requiring furloughed nurses to use earned time off and/or have declared layoffs. In conclusion, approximately one third of our workforce has served tirelessly and courageously during COVID-19 while approximately one half of our nurses have been sent home. In surveying our nurses, it was no surprise to find that almost all of those displaced…are yearning to serve patients, even at great risk!
With the billions in federal funding under consideration to keep our healthcare system whole, should we ignore the largest professional workforce in healthcare…nurses? To be clear, ASNA is NOT a union, nor do we function like one. But as nurse advocates we cannot remain silent about the inequity of linking fair policies like “nurse staff flexing based on census” to layoffs during a PANDEMIC! Please, find a way to include nurses in the bridge assistance offered to hospitals, institutions, small businesses and their employees. Nurses always put their patients first. Now it is time for someone to stand up for them.
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