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New York Congressman Paul Tonko pushes funding for new nursing facility at Siena College

New York Congressman Paul Tonko was at Siena College Monday, finishing his tour of proposed community funding project recipients.

The Capital Region Democrat joined Siena President Chris Gibson in Loudonville to promote nearly $500,000 in proposed federal funding to expand the private college’s Baldwin Nursing Program.

Gibson, a retired House Republican, says the funding would go toward a new building.

“That new facility is going to have labs, it's going to have new classrooms, it's going to have maker space, it's going to have more space for faculty for their engagement with students - and it's really needed,” he said.

Tonko, who represents the 20th district, says the proposed funding is one of 15 community projects he is requesting funding for from the federal government.

“Having come from the (New York) state legislature, I knew the value that came with member item requests. Because if you're doing your job as an elected official, you become in touch with a lot of foundational efforts and forums. And we know where that shortage might be, where that need might be (and) where the solution is going to really impact positively. Like maybe others might not and I think that awareness factor is good. Because, in general, I don't think a budget at any level - from family up to government – can always accurately predict what the bumps and hurdles are going to be in that coming year.”

Countries across the world were unprepared for the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 – including the United States. The World Health Organization says there was a worldwide shortfall of about 6 million nurses between 2013 and 2018. Since then, the health care industry has absorbed an exodus of nurses and other staff due to burnout and other pandemic-related reasons.

Tonko, who represents the 20th district, says the funding would help nursing schools like Siena’s during a nationwide struggle to meet the rise in demand for qualified health care workers.

“When we talked, I heard this effort to address capacity with the challenges of the profession. We have to stretch the opportunity for souls that are looking to go down this path and you've got that coming with your new building and everything. But then, of course, the educational and lab equipment that is necessary for hands on, I can imagine is pricy.”

Gibson says the funding can address the Capital Region’s nursing shortage.

“At the state level, you've heard the governor talk about recognizing the challenges and bringing forward $10 billion of monies that can be applied for. And that's part of these conversations we're having with hospitals and (the) Belanger (School of Nursing) and Maria (College). About how we can show, through perhaps a consortia, how we can be part of the solution here. Because, here's one data point that's worth noting is that almost 100 percent of our nurses - we've actually pinned and graduated - stay here. They stay right here in the Capital District.”

Capital Region resident Natasha Nugent is one such Siena College nursing student.

“My mom is actually a nurse herself. So, following the acts of COVID and everything we really do, we need all the support that we can get, especially for our nurses.”