Updates from the Committee on Workplace Safety

NYS Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety Releases Report on Safe Patient Handling
June 6, 2011

The Assembly Subcommittee on Workplace Safety today released a report detailing the success of safe patient handling programs in healthcare facilities in New York and recommending passage of the "Safe Patient Handling Act," (A.1370/S.2470), sponsored by Subcommittee Chair Assemblyman Rory Lancman and Senator George Maziarz. Assemblyman Lancman and Senator Maziarz were joined in announcing the report by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried as well as healthcare employer and employee representatives and workplace safety advocates.

Safe patient handling is a policy and practice that replaces manual lifting and moving tasks for healthcare professionals with machines and training to properly lift and move patients safely, without injury to the patient or the handler. The report cites examples in New York in which healthcare facilities have dramatically reduced employee injuries, workers' compensation costs and turnover rates by successfully implementing safe patient handling programs. The Safe Patient Handling Act would (1) create a safe patient handling task-force, (2) direct the New York State Department of Health to establish a safe patient handling policy, and (3) require each covered healthcare facility to write and execute a plan that coincides with that policy. The Safe Patient Handling Act would dramatically reduce injuries commonly suffered by healthcare workers and in doing so, would reduce taxpayer and healthcare facility costs associated with employee injuries as well as reduce skin tears and bruises for patients.

"The healthcare industry experiences some of the highest workplace injury rates in the United States, with overexertion as the leading cause -- but healthcare facilities here in New York are dramatically reducing injuries and saving money by implementing safe patient handling programs," said Assemblyman Lancman. "We need to make safe patient handling statewide part of the permanent culture of healthcare delivery throughout New York by passing the Safe patient Handling Act."

“The safe patient handling program improves safety and comfort, reduces the risk of falls reduces fear and anxiety and gives patients greater satisfaction of their care," said Senator George Maziarz, Chair of the Committee on Energy and Telecommunications and prime sponsor of the Safe Patient Handling Act. "It only makes sense to use the most up to date technology and methods to make certain that some of the most vulnerable people in our society receive the highest quality of care. To ensure that this is the case, we need to pass the Safe Patient Handling Act now.”

“One of the greatest risks patients and staff face in a hospital is injury caused while moving a patient,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “The success of New York State’s Safe Patient Handling demonstration program has shown that adopting the program in every hospital and nursing home will reduce injuries for patients and staff, reduce absenteeism and staff turnover, and save money.”

“The challenges the healthcare industry is facing require that we transform how we deliver care and the outcomes we achieve,” said Connie Vari, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Kaleida Health. “As an RN and the chief operating officer of a large health system, we must constantly focus on improving quality and safety; safe patient handling does just that. Our six-year experience with safe patient handling in our five hospitals and four long-term care facilities has demonstrated improvements in reducing injury from patient transfer for both our patients and staff. During this same period, we significantly reduced our operating expenses for workers’ compensation and disability. Safe patient handling has demonstrated value in our organization and I, Connie Vari, MBA, MSN, RN, am in full support of safe patient handling for New York State. I urge you to stop manual lifting as a means to improve quality and reduce costs.”

“Major changes in reimbursement have negatively impacted the ability of organizations to remain viable,” said Vice President of Long Term Care at Kaleida Health Maureen E. Caruana. “Given these tough economic times, the time is more than right to invest in safe patient handling. As an administrator, vice president of long-term care and an RN, I am keenly aware of the cost of doing business in health care. Previously a bedside nurse, I fully understand the physicality of the profession. As an administrator, I fully understand the cost of an injury. The return on investment from safe patient handling programs is real and evidence-based. A $2 million safe patient handling investment into Kaleida Health’s new 300-bed long-term care construction project is evidence that this is the absolute right thing to do and proof of return on investment with safe patient handling. I, Maureen Caruana, and the organization that I represent, Kaleida Health, are in full support of safe patient handling for New York State.”

"Putting patient safety first, along with the safety of workers who provide patient care, should not be open to discussion," said NYS AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes. "It should be a matter of fact. When we have the opportunity to improve the quality of patient care, as well as reduce injuries in the workplace, we must act. And we must act immediately. Given that this bill will also reduce employer costs over the long run, the time is now to enact the Safe Patient Handling Act."

"The passage of Assembly bill A 1370A, The Safe Patient Handling Act, would be an enormous step forward in the protection of New York’s patients and healthcare workers," said Nurse Alliance of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Executive Director Patricia Greenberg. "Our healthcare facilities will benefit as well because their workers’ compensation costs will decrease dramatically, allowing them to use their funds for patient and resident care. For these and many other reasons, the Nurse Alliance of 1199SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, supports passage of The Safe Patient Handling Act."

"The New York State Nurses Association strongly supports this important bill, which would reduce injuries for healthcare providers and patients," said Tina Gerardi of the New York State Nurses Association. "Patients vary in size, weight, and mobility, and nurses want to be able to care for all patients safely and effectively. Safe Patient Handling policies and practices improve care and create a safe environment for patients and healthcare providers by eliminating the risks that come with manual lifting. The elimination of these risks will also reduce worker's compensation claims resulting from musculoskeletal injuries; one of the most common injuries to healthcare workers when lifting and moving patients."

"Healthcare workers which include thousands of our members are experiencing an epidemic of preventable back injuries which too often become permanently disabling and add to the costs of workers’ compensation and lost work time, said Public Employees Federation President Kenneth Brynien. "Now is the time to address this dilemma by passing the SPH legislation."

"Safe patient handling is good for the worker, for the patient, and for the facility," said Civil Service Employees Association President Danny Donohue. "It is a proven method to drastically reduce injuries and save workers compensation costs. It is a win, win, win situation."

"Disabling and traumatic ergonomic injuries should not be a condition of employment for healthcare workers and that is why the prevention of these injuries is a top priority for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), said Communications Workers of America, District 1 Vice President Christopher Shelton. "In western New York, CWA has been instrumental in implementing a model Safe Patient Handling program in collaboration with Kaleida Health which has significantly reduced health care worker and patient injuries, cut costs associated with workers’ compensation, lost or restricted work time, and insurance rates, and reduced worker turnover. With Safe Patient Handling programs, everyone wins - healthcare workers, patients, and the healthcare facilities alike. The Safe Patient Handling Act must be passed now to prevent any more disabling injuries."

"There is no safe way of transferring or repositioning patients, said New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health Executive Director Joel Shufro. "Improper lifting and unsafe patient handling is one of the leading causes of workplace injury for direct care employees, nurses and other health care professions. Inadequate training and equipment also endangers the quality of health care and can lead to series injuries of immobile patients. Creating rules and regulations for a statewide safe patient handling for all health care facilities policy is prudent public health policy which will eliminate hazards facing patients and health care workers."