NEW YORK — A new program is bringing nurses on furlough from upstate hospitals to New York City to help out at understaffed hospitals in the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. While nursing staff at many New York City hospitals have been pushed to the breaking point, hospitals upstate are cutting staff.
In response, the New York State Nurses Association has launched the Upstate COVID Nurse Corps to redeploy nurses to hospitals that need additional staff.
According to Sean Petty, a nurse at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, nurses are most desperately needed in the smaller community hospitals that treat some of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
“It’d be a huge help to those nurses, to those hospitals and, more importantly, to those communities because ultimately who suffers are the communities, are the patients being cared for there,” Petty states.
So far, more than 120 nurses have volunteered for the Upstate COVID Nurse Corps. The first nurses were deployed this week to a hospital on Staten Island.
Petty says hundreds of nurses have been placed on unpaid furlough by upstate hospitals, and redeploying them where they are needed just makes sense. But some hospital administrators aren’t cooperating.
“We’re facing resistance from some of these upstate hospital systems, in particular, Albany Medical Center, but also a few other ones who are not releasing some of these nurses to come downstate,” he states.
Petty adds that participating nurses are being paid by the hospitals where they are deployed, and the state is picking up the costs of housing and transportation.
And while New York City is at the peak of its COVID-19 surge, Petty notes that the pandemic isn’t expected to peak in many upstate communities until late May or June when they will need experienced nurses to handle a growing patient load.
“They’ll be in situations where the newest treatments are being implemented,” he states. “They’ll learn all of the modalities of care and they’ll be able to lead entire teams of nurses as they go back into their communities.”
Petty says coordinating the deployment of nursing staff to meet shifting medical needs is a win for both the nurses, the hospitals and the communities they serve.