For Immediate Release
Contact: Nancy Webber, 518.782.9400, ext. 223
Mark Genovese, 518.782.9400, ext. 353
WATERTOWN, N.Y., Aug. 21, 2009 – As of last week, there were 48 unfilled registered nurse positions at Samaritan Medical Center, or about 11% of its RN workforce. With such a high number of vacancies, nurses say low nurse staffing levels could compromise patient care.
The 350 RNs and their union, the New York State Nurses Association, are seeking to address this important issue in contract talks with the medical center. Their previous contract expired on Aug. 1.
To bring their message to the public, the nurses of Samaritan Medical Center will conduct an informational picket on Thursday, Sept. 3, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in front of the hospital at 830 Washington St.
“The medical center has a well-trained, loyal, and experienced nursing workforce that understands the needs of the community,” said Jill Schloemer, an emergency department nurse and a member of the nurses’ negotiation team. “But it faces a significant challenge in maintaining the nursing staff levels required to provide necessary patient care.”
The nurses want the medical center keep a promise made prior to recent restructuring that on a typical medical-surgical unit, an RN would be assigned no more than six patients. In recent months, nurses say, that ratio has increased to as many as nine patients per nurse.
The nurses also believe that a fair contract will improve the medical center’s ability to recruit and retain RNs. This would require compensation and benefits comparable to other hospitals in the region. But, instead, medical center administrators are demanding that nurses accept a health insurance plan that will provide less coverage with higher out-of-pocket expense.
While demanding givebacks from its nurses, the medical center recorded a substantial operating profit – two times more than was budgeted for the first six months of the year.
“We strongly believe that we will continue to see an exodus of nurses from Samaritan if these cutbacks occur,” said Nora May, a cardiac rehabilitation nurse. “We have made reasonable proposals but hospital management has not been willing to do the same. The nurses will continue to fight on behalf of quality patient care throughout our facility.”
The New York State Nurses Association is the voice for nursing in the Empire State. With more than 37,000 members, it is the state's largest union and professional association for registered nurses. It supports nurses and nursing practice through education, research, legislative advocacy, and collective bargaining.