By MIKE LEE
Members of locals 420 and 768 work hard in providing quality care at NYC Health+Hospitals facilities.
Some of the tasks involved in making patients’ lives better under their care may seem mundane to outsiders, but their work makes a huge difference in patient care. It can also injure health-care workers providing these services.
DC 37 members assist in daily routines to make hospital patients’ lives better, such as moving them from their beds to a chair, or helping patients in physical therapy. While these day-to-day routines for our city hospital workers is a normal practice in health-care settings, workers face risk of bodily injury.
Many of these injuries are caused by repeated pressure on the back or knees — both can lead to chronic pain and long-term physical damage. Also, there is a risk of patient injury if staff cannot prevent a fall.
Work injuries can end a career in health care
Work-related injury while performing duties to help a patient’s mobility leads to a loss of work days, which can cause staff shortages. The injured worker faces the possibility of an early end to his or her career due to disability caused by a work injury.
In 2014, the state Legislature approved the New York State Safe Patient Handling Act. This law provides nurses, and other health-care workers access to training and education on how to ensure safety of patients and the workers who care for them.
Since the law’s passage, the concerns of workers are being addressed. Safe work practices, such as reducing the need to manually lift patients by using patient-assist equipment like floor and ceiling lifts and sliding boards, have greatly helped reduce injuries to both patients and health-care workers.
However, a lot more needs to happen and this is why the DC 37 Safety and Health Dept. has been in the forefront in advocating for a safe work environment for health-care workers responsible for patient handling.
When the state passed the Safe Patient Handling law, the department submitted a proposal to the state Dept. of Labor’s Hazard Abatement Board for a grant to train and educate workers on safe patient handling.
“Our goal is to reduce the injury rate among our members, utilizing education,” said Safety and Health Director Guille Mejia. “Our primary objectives are to have members learn about the law, management’s responsibilities and to be fully informed of the recommendations provided by the state’s Dept. of Health.”
Local 420 President Carmen Charles, whose members are the primary focus for upcoming trainings, said, “It is vitally important that our workers receive this training. Our first priority is to protect our workers from injury, and we cannot always rely on management to do what is necessary.”
Local 768 President Fitz Reid agrees. He said, “It is our duty and responsibility to protect our members and to challenge management in their practices.”
Starting in April, the DC 37 Safety and Health Dept. will conduct a series of 2-hour sessions and trainings at several NYC Health + Hospitals facilities. These awareness and training sessions are to provide attending health-care workers with important information on the Safe Patient Handling law and make them fully aware of their rights in regards to management policy — particularly to stress the importance of implementing a safe patient handling program at their facility.
The focus of the training is to ensure DC 37 members recognize the hazards associated with patient lifting and movement and the program that NYC H+H has developed to help reduce injuries.
Local 768 President Fitz Reid, who represents workers at NYC H+H facilities, talked about the importance of union-led worker education about job safety.
“Our emphasis is on educating the workers and actively engaging them to maintain the highest safety standards, and to be trained in the equipment that is available to them.”
The training and education programs will be held in every borough to allow as many DC 37 members as possible to attend.
Sessions will be held at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens; Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn; Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, and Sea View Hospital on Staten Island.
Also, there will be three additional awareness and training sessions at union headquarters for those who could not attend the hospital-based sessions.
On June 2, DC 37 is sponsoring a day-long educational conference on safe patient handling at union headquarters, with panel speakers and hands-on demonstrations of lifting equipment, along with discussions of the law and updates on NYC H+H policy.