Focus on
       Health Care
March 8, 2001

From the NYS Assembly  •  Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Catherine Nolan, Chair, Labor Committee

Governor Kills Health Care Whistleblower Protection Act, Putting Patient Safety and Workers’ Rights at Risk

Landmark Assembly bill passes both Houses of the Legislature unanimously; dies on Governor’s desk

The Governor dealt health care workers and their patients a stunning blow when he pocket vetoed the Health Care Whistleblower’s Act (A.11435). This landmark, bipartisan measure would protect workers in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes from the threat of losing their jobs if they report illegal or unsafe practices that jeopardize patient care. It passed the Assembly and Senate unanimously –– and had widespread support among consumer groups, labor organizations, and health care professionals.

At a time when the health care system is facing critical staffing shortages and mounting pressure to cut costs, workers need protection from retaliation if they report improper patient care.

That’s why the Assembly pushed so hard to enact legislation prohibiting health care employers from retaliating against employees who advocate for patients by reporting wrongdoing.

Our bill would bar employers from firing, suspending, or discriminating against a worker who discloses information about the practices and policies of a health care facility that they believe could create a risk to public health or patient safety. Employers who violate the law would face fines between $200 and $2,000.

Fighting for the rights of their patients shouldn’t leave health care workers fighting for their jobs.

Nurses and other health care professionals should never be afraid to speak out when their patients’ health and safety are at risk. Every patient and their loved ones deserve to know that their caregiver is looking out for them — and will intervene if they’re at risk of receiving poor quality or dangerous care.

The role of patient advocate is especially critical at a time when the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine reports that medical errors are responsible for as many as 98,000 deaths each year — and that the health care industry is not doing enough to ensure patient safety.*

The Assembly will continue pushing for quality health care for all New Yorkers.

The Health Care Whistleblower Protection Act is just part of the Assembly Majority’s ongoing efforts to ensure that New York’s health care system is second to none.

The Assembly will continue pushing for long-overdue whistleblower protection in 2001, along with legislation holding HMOs accountable for the decisions they make, improving women’s health care, and allowing disabled New Yorkers to enter the work force without fear of losing their Medicaid health care coverage.

* "To Err is Human," a 1999 report issued by the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Science, an organization created by Congress to advise government on scientific matters.

Health Care Whistleblower Protection Act Has Wide Support
The Governor said he’d back a Whistle-blower Protection Act that had a “broader measure of support” –– despite the enthusiastic backing the measure already enjoys among a wide range of public interest groups, including:

Labor Organizations
square bullet  NYSNA (NYS Nurses Association)
square bullet  AFL-CIO
square bullet  AFSCME
square bullet  NYS Public Employees Federation
square bullet  CSEA
square bullet  DC 37 (District Council 37)
square bullet  1199/SEIU (Service Employees International Union)
square bullet  NYSUT (NYS United Teachers)
square bullet  Communication Workers of America, District 1

Health Professional Associations
square bullet  Pharmacists Society of the State of NY
square bullet  NASW (National Asssociation of Social Workers, NYS Chapter)
square bullet  NYSOTA (NYS Occupational Therapy Association)
square bullet  NYSPA (NYS Psychological Association)
square bullet  Alliance of New York Licensed Health Care Professionals
square bullet  Association of Operating Room Nurses
square bullet  Gay Men’s Health Crisis

Consumer Advocacy Groups
square bullet  Citizen Action of New York
square bullet  Family Planning Advocates of NYS
square bullet  New York AIDS Coalition
square bullet  NYPIRG (New York Public Interest Research Group)
square bullet  NYS Health Care Campaign
square bullet  StateWide Senior Action Council
square bullet  The Nursing Home Community Coalition
square bullet  The League of Women Voters of NYS

"We are deeply disappointed that the Governor talks about quality health care but fails to take action when it really counts."

square bullet  Martha Orr, RN
New York State Nurses Association

"As long as healthcare workers at the bedside are at risk of retaliation from their employers for doing their jobs of ensuring that their patients receive safe, quality care — no patient will be safe."

square bullet  Letter to Governor Pataki from a coalition of consumer advocate groups, including the StateWide Senior Action Council

"We’re stunned that the governor would allow this important consumer protection legislation to die...Recent studies have shown that thousands of New Yorkers die in the hospital due to medical errors...To allow health professionals to continue to be muzzled is indefensible."

square bullet  Blair Horner
NYS Public Interest Research Group

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