Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

January 23, 2023


Today, State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), joined by fellow legislators including State Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury), State Senator Jan Hochadel (D-Meriden), State Representative Cristin McCarthy-Vahey (D-Fairfield) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, stood alongside health care professionals as they advocated for legislative proposals including but not limited to patient limits for nurses and safe staffing levels in health care.

Speakers, including Crystal Badeau, vice president of WCMH United Employees and AFT Local 5099 and Sherri Dayton, vice president for healthcare for AFT Connecticut, described dire conditions and abuse from patients they’ve experienced in the field in the process of attempting to provide care, and professionals warned that attrition due to these conditions is threatening the field’s ability to provide care.

“Safe staffing saves lives. There should be no confusion about this,” said Sen. Anwar, a pulmonologist with extensive health care experience himself. “One of the first bills I proposed before the pandemic was about safe staffing. Why? Because in the intensive care unit, I saw my colleagues crying in those moments when they were tired, treating critically ill patients without the resources to do so effectively, trying to take care of each and every one of them. The pain and suffering is real. And then we had the pandemic.”

“Before the pandemic, we were stretched,” he continued. “After the pandemic, we are in crisis. Health care workers and nurses are burned out. One of five health care workers have left the field and one in three of those remaining are thinking about leaving. This is a crisis rapidly moving toward disaster, and this disaster is preventable. If you don’t have adequate staff, people die. You increase the risk of medical errors. Your patients’ conditions worsen. At this time, what we have to do is recognize the status quo is unacceptable. We have a country with excellent health care and to see that erode is painful. Let’s intervene. Let’s do what we can. Rep. McCarthy-Vahey and I are committed to bringing health care leaders to the table and work together. We need the hospitals on board. We cannot implement a comprehensive plan without fixing current issues. We need a workforce pipeline for those who choose this field and we need to support our heroes who put themselves in harm’s way. We need to show them that love we showed them during the pandemic; if we do not back up that love through action, they are only words.”

“It’s time for us to help the helpers,” said Rep. McCarthy-Vahey. “These are the people who don’t want to put their oxygen masks on first, even when that’s what they need to do to support us. We’re here to support them and help the helpers. We look forward to making sure health care workers are safe and all people in Connecticut will remain safe as well.”

Specific proposals mentioned by health leaders included addressing unsafe staffing levels, with stories relaying staffing ratios as high as 29 patients for two nurses in one shift, a level that threatens both the ability of professionals to administer care and for patients to properly receive care and recover; establishing safe patient limits; and protecting vital health services. As those gathered said, adding a single patient to a nurse’s workload increases the risk of patient death by 7%.

Today’s pleas come in the wake of the AFT’s 2022 health care staffing shortage task force report, which found health care was already dangerously understaffed before the COVID-19 pandemic and is now in crisis. With nursing education programs understaffed, underfunded and costly, with attrition among staff quickening its pace – as many as 100,000 RNs under the age of 44 left the workforce between 2020 and 2021 – health professionals advocate for improved recruitment, expanded aid for students and loan repayment, and enacting laws mandating better safety standards in the field.