BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nurses at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo said they need more staff on virtually every floor of the hospital.

Sherry Thomas has worked at the facility for 15 years and is currently in the post-anesthesia care unit.

"It's very stressful," Thomas said. "It's very toxic in a sense to where nurses are just upset even with each other. They ask you help but I can't come help you because I'm doing something with another patient."

She said there are regularly not enough nurses to give patients the amount of attention she would like, a reality that weighs on even the strongest-willed.

"I just feel like some days I want to just cry like I didn't do a good job," Thomas said. "I didn't have the patient long enough, you know what I mean and then you worry about the backlash of is there going to be any residual effect for the patient."

Thomas and dozens of other nurses rallied in front of the hospital Wednesday, calling on state legislators to pass the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. The bill would set specific nurse to patient ratios by unit as well as means for oversight.

"We have put these people in positions of power to help us, not to get into power to forget about us. We feel like we have (been) forgotten. We feel like our patients have been forgotten," Kena Collins, of the New York State Nurses Association, said.

The bill also sets daily hours of care requirements for patients in nursing homes. The attorney general's recent report was critical of lack of staffing in long-term facilities.

Steve Bailey who works at Terrace View on the ECMC campus and has been a nurse for three decades said the lack of investment in long-term care started well before the pandemic.

"What used to be minimum staffing is now our ideal staffing," he said. "What used to be minimum staffing is now our daily staffing. What used to be panic staffing is now our daily staffing and in the meantime ever-increasing responsibilities."

The union said ECMC executives care more about their bottom line than adequate staffing.

"If you see a shiny new ECMC sign but you don't see safe staffing, you know you value that sign over safe staffing," Bailey said. "If you see a pretty new facade that we got this year but you don't see safe staffing, then you know they don't value safe staffing."

The hospital said it has experienced increasingly high patient volumes over the past month and has developed a plan to hire additional nurses as a result, but noted the financial impact of the pandemic and nearly two months of canceled elective surgeries.

A spokesperson also said all regional nursing homes have been challenged in hiring staff and ECMC has offered financial incentives as it actively recruits for nearly 50 open positions. He said the facility is exceeding national and state averages for staffing.