As the Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, I look forward to a very important hearing in New Brunswick, New Jersey on Friday, October 27th to discuss the issues of national significance being raised by the nurses’ strike at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital which has now gone on for over two months.
This country faces a major workforce crisis in health care. We do not have enough doctors, dentists, mental health practitioners, and pharmacists. Perhaps most disturbingly, we have a major and growing shortage of nurses – the people who are on the frontlines of our health care system.
As Chairman of the Committee, I am working hard, in a bipartisan way, to increase the number of nurses in this country and to retain the nursing workforce we have.
Tragically, we are losing hundreds of thousands of qualified nurses who are no longer comfortable in doing their jobs. Many of them feel that their working conditions are deplorable and that they are unable, because of inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios, to provide the quality of care their patients deserve.
When nurses at Robert Wood Johnson tell me that their hospital has become a dangerous place for both patients to seek care and nurses to do their jobs because of totally inadequate staffing levels, it is imperative that the Senate HELP Committee pursue this issue – because this is a crisis facing not just one hospital, but hospitals throughout the country.
At this hearing, I look forward to hearing from the nurses as well as the hospital management. I am especially interested in hearing from Mark Manigan, the President of RWJBarnabas Health which owns the Robert Wood Johnson University nonprofit hospital. I look forward to hearing how his health care system could afford to spend over $17 million on CEO compensation in 2021 and how his hospital could afford $87 million on traveling nurses since the strike began, but somehow cannot afford to mandate safe staffing ratios to improve the lives of patients and health care workers.
I am also curious to know why nurses are on strike for better nurse-patient ratios at a hospital system that made over $4 billion in revenue over the first six months of this year and over $7.5 billion in revenue last year. To my mind, that is more than enough money to treat its nurses and frontline health care workers with the dignity and the respect they deserve.
What nurses in New Jersey, Vermont, and all over this country have told me is that they have been stretched to the breaking point. They tell me that they are stressed out, burnt out, and are leaving the profession they love in droves because they are overworked, undervalued, and are forced each and every day to do more with less.
This is a crisis that must be dealt with, and I look forward to the Committee shining a light on this crisis and how we can best address it.