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Health care workers rally at Connecticut Capitol at start of legislative session

Health care workers and allies rally for safe staffing for health care workers outside of the Capitol Building in Hartford, Connecticut.
Ayannah Brown
Connecticut Public
Health care workers and allies rally for safe staffing for health care workers outside the Capitol Building in Hartford, Connecticut.

The first day of Connecticut's legislative session is often punctuated by protests. Last year, there were anti-mask protesters outside the Capitol Building, and the year prior, protesters defending religious exemption for vaccines.

At the start of the 2023 session on Wednesday, there was a rally for nurses and health care workers demanding safer staffing conditions.

The event was organized by CT Nurses United, a group of non-union Connecticut nurses who have connected via their Instagram account, collecting harrowing, and mostly anonymous, testimonials.

Paul Banach, one of the organizers and an ICU nurse, says they’re hearing from nurses across Connecticut and the country.

“We’re all feeling this right now,” Banach said. “This is a corporate model of health care that has impacted hospitals around the country."

AFT Connecticut, the largest union of acute health care workers in the state, also attended.

John Brady, vice president of AFT Connecticut, believes that when it comes to the so-called nursing shortage, there is no shortage of available and qualified nurses; it’s issues around “workplace conditions” that are driving them away.

"There’s thousands of nurses registered in the state of Connecticut who don’t work at the bedside,” Brady said.

According to the CT Data Collaborative, “Of the 86,483 nurses that have a current license in Connecticut, 44,086 are actively practicing in Connecticut.”

Brady says AFT Connecticut has been working with state Sen. Saud Anwar, deputy president pro tem and co-chair of the legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health, to propose two bills this session.

One bill would address what they see as “unsafe staffing” in health care, building off a California law that keeps nurse-to-patient ratios low, and according to several studies, patient outcomes and worker satisfaction high.

In an email, the Connecticut Hospital Association asserted that ratios “are not the answer” and “would exacerbate the problem, causing delays in care and raising costs with corporate nurse staffing agencies as the likely beneficiaries. Instead, hospitals and health systems are working with partners at the state, in education, and across healthcare to educate, train, and retain more nurses and other healthcare professionals in Connecticut.”

The second bill Brady noted would address workforce recruitment and retention.

AFT Connecticut plans to hold a news conference around “Safe Patient Care” next week.

As for CT Nurses United, Banach says “the most important thing right now is being transparent with the public about what is happening in hospitals … and talk to legislators, talk to the public about what conditions are like inside.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified John Brady as the president of AFT Connecticut. Brady is the vice president.

Updated: January 5, 2023 at 2:23 PM EST
This story has been updated.
Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show 'Where We Live.' She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH.

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