Resolutions address staffing levels, patient care

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The AFT, which represents 112,000 nurses and other healthcare workers and is the second-largest nurse union in the nation, approved resolutions on July 13 calling for safe staffing levels and efforts to reshape the healthcare industry to put patients before corporate profits.

The policymaking resolutions were approved unanimously at the AFT convention in Los Angeles. The more than 3,500 AFT delegates also celebrated last year's affiliation of 34,000 registered nurses from the National Federation of Nurses, which helped push the AFT's membership over the 1.6 million mark. These nurses work in hospitals in Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Washington state. And the AFT bestowed the Everyday Hero healthcare award to the leaders of three unions at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, Conn.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said there is a need to reclaim the promise of high-quality healthcare to provide affordable, accessible care for all.

"Let's make sure we use all tools and tactics available … to fight for affordable, high-quality healthcare and a healthcare system that puts patient care and worker safety above corporate profits," Weingarten said in her keynote speech to the AFT convention.

Decades of research have established the relationship between inadequate nurse staffing and: unexpected hospital deaths or injuries, medical errors, complications and infections, readmissions, patient satisfaction, and burnout and turnover, the safe-staffing resolution said.

Among other things, the AFT pledged to support state and federal laws setting minimum standards for the number of patients assigned to registered nurses for each hospital unit and shift, as well as laws to establish nurse staffing committees that would research, establish and review factors appropriate for increasing nurse staffing levels above the minimum levels required by law.

The patients-before-profits resolution noted that hospital executives' compensation increases at double-digit rates while nurses are being laid off, and it highlighted 2013 data that showed that CEO compensation was not tied to higher quality, better outcomes or other factors that would benefit patients and communities.

This resolution said the union will join with patient advocates, community groups and other providers to create a national education and advocacy campaign to focus on reshaping the United States healthcare system "to serve the needs of communities and to truly put patients first." The AFT will also advocate for transparency in the healthcare industry by calling for all financial information and quality indicators to be publicly available.

The AFT Everyday Hero award for healthcare went to the leaders of the unions at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, in New London, Conn., which fought to keep patient care services in the community hospital rather than outsourced, through a strike, a hospital lockout and ultimately a successful contract this past winter.

Accepting the award at the convention were Lisa D'Abrosca, president of AFT Local 5049, which represents L+M registered nurses; Stephanie Johnson, president of AFT Local 5051, which represents licensed practical nurses and technicians; and Harry Rodriguez, president of AFT Local 5123, which represents service and support workers.

[AFT press release]