Overwhelming Vote by Capital Region RNs to Authorize Strike at Nathan Littauer Hospital and Ellis Medicine

For Immediate Release: June 19, 2015

Not Enough Nurses and Caregivers for Safe Patient Care at Nathan Littauer Hospital and Ellis Medicine

CAPITAL REGION, NY – As calls to increase numbers of registered nurses at Capital Region area hospitals grow louder -- by the public, elected officials, public health experts and by nurses and caregivers themselves -- members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) at Nathan Littauer Hospital and Ellis Medicine announced today an overwhelming vote to authorize a strike. More than 700 nurses are in negotiations with both hospitals, however nurses say management hasn’t been bargaining in good faith. “Every nurse and healthcare professional at Nathan Littauer and Ellis Medicine cares deeply about giving our patients safe and quality care. We want to make sure that when you come to the hospital you have the best possible care. But there are simply not enough nurses and caregivers to do the job effectively,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, NYSNA President. Recently, more than 300 nurses from Nathan Littauer, Ellis Medicine and Bellevue Woman's Center walked the picket line in front of their hospitals with patients, elected officials and other community members who are concerned that big business is trumping patient care in the Capital Region.

This strike authorization vote comes on the heels of more than 18,000 nurses at 14 NYC hospitals taking a similar strike authorization earlier this month. NYSNA members in NYC private sector hospitals have been faced with efforts by hospital management to silence, retaliate against and even lock out nurses for speaking about patient care issues. Some of the proposals put forward by hospital management at Nathan Littauer and Ellis Medicine could have dire consequences for quality patient care, as well as the local economy. Hospital managers have been looking at ways to boost revenue through outpatient clinics and services, outsourcing vital services outside of the hospital, and fast-tracking patients. Many believe that the ultimate goal is to dismantle inpatient care entirely and continue as an urgent care center instead. If services are reduced or eliminated, Capital Region patients will be forced to travel outside of their community to get the care that they need.

“Safe staffing is the number one goal of RNs, not only in the Capital Region, but all over the entire state. NYSNA has been given an overwhelming mandate by the nurses of Ellis Medicine to strike to give safe staffing the attention it deserves,” said Catherine Lucas, a post-anesthesia care unit nurse at Ellis Medicine for 37 years. “We will fight for the safety and well-being of our community's healthcare because that's what we do.”

Nathan Littauer and Ellis RNs have adopted a unified platform to win fair contracts that includes important patient care protections like safe RN staffing and community proposals to give patients a voice in healthcare decisions. But, management at these facilities would dictate terms that increase their bottom line, rather than agree to patient care improvements. “Over 99% of registered nurses have voted to authorize a strike at Nathan Littauer. We are united so that we can advocate for our community and our patients,” said Marion Enright, a critical care unit nurse at Nathan Littauer Hospital, where contract negotiations have dragged on for 19 months. “We all went to school to become patient advocates. The day that I stop being a patient advocate is the day that I stop being a nurse.”

RNs in the bargaining units, which represent just over 700 nurses between the two facilities, have presented proposals to management that would raise patient care standards, provide affordable healthcare for caregivers, safer staffing ratios for nurses and fair wages that meet the state median for RNs. But so far, management at Ellis Medicine and Nathan Littauer Hospital have resisted the RNs' proposals to do what is right for Capital Region patients. "The registered professional nurses of Ellis Medicine have sent management a very clear message about how serious we are about safe staffing," said Patricia Donahue, a post-anesthesia care unit nurse at Ellis Hospital for 34 years. “Safe patient care is a basic human right and all nurses should have a say in how patient care is delivered. Who better than the person who does the job of caring every day to have that input.”

The date of the strike has yet to be determined by the union’s bargaining team, which are elected by the membership.

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The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 37,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit our website at www.nysna.org.

About NYSNA

We are 40,000 nurses working together to win safe staffing, keep hospitals open for care, stop the Wall Street attack on our patients, and win healthcare for all.