NEW YORK NURSE: October 2012
Westchester Medical Center (WMC) administrators are taking a world-class hospital in the wrong direction. That’s the disturbing story nurses told members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
“Administrators are trying to impose a new model of care,” said Juliane Hatzel, RN. Administrators are replacing permanent employees – RNs and assistive personnel – with workers from staffing agencies.
“It sounds like what is going on here is an ideological experiment in bringing in private companies to run a public hospital,” responded Legislator Mary Jane Shimsky. “History shows ideological experiments don’t end well.”
Last December, administrators laid off 139 nurses. “They’re using agency nurses to fill in the slack. But many of those nurses are not trained for the units they’re on. And they skip the standard six month orientation new nurses used to get, Hatzel said.
This year, administrators laid off hundreds of assistive personnel, and brought an outside subcontractor to supply staff. “In Burn Care, highly skilled aides have been subcontracted out,” said Sam Caquias, an RN and president of the NYSNA chapter at WMC. “Those aides worked hand-in-hand with RNs to change out sterile dressing. It’s hard for an employment agency to keep people long enough to gain those skills.”
Margaret Ciavolella, RN, said that nurses are going above and beyond to help patients stay safe – but they can only be in one place at a time. “Having an adequate nurse-to-patient ratio is the number one factor for having a good patient outcome,” she said.
“This hospital tells the community one thing, and Wall Street another,” said Desma Holcomb, a researcher at the nurses’ union. “In a recent bond offering, they told investors that they are doing well and making plans for major expansion.”
Nurses warn that the hospital’s new model of care could put that future in jeopardy.
Nurses turned in 1,600 protests of assignment that document how administrators are hurting patient care at the hospital.
WMC RNs are in a bitter battle to defend patient services, preserve one of our state’s great public hospitals and win a contract that allows them to recruit and retain a high-quality nursing staff. The hospital administration wants the opposite - it is bent on privatizing services and weakening the work force. Just about all CSEA members there have been laid off and been replaced. The administration has laid off 139 RNs, forcing 44 into per diem jobs and others into part-time positions.
To make up for that critical gap, the hospital has been bringing in Agency RNs from MSN and PEARLCARE to fill in the spots where our members have been pushed out.
There are NYSNA members who have been laid off and are on the recall list, but are not being recalled because of the agency nurses. Many of the agency nurses doing this work have come from other NYSNA facilities in the metropolitan area and are NYSNA members. They are unaware of this very serious situation. Their agency work is a disservice to our Westchester members, who are struggling in the face of many difficult conditions. We do NOT want our members making the Westchester situation easier for management by coming in as agency nurses.
Please do not accept work as an agency nurse at Westchester Medical Center.