FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 12, 2020
Contact: Kristi Barnes | firstname.lastname@example.org | 646.853.4489
Valley Stream, NY — More than 100 nurses, elected officials, community, labor and religious leaders gathered in front of Northwell LIJ Valley Stream hospital today for a picket to demand safe staffing, respect for COVID nurse heroes, and equitable treatment for patients in the Valley Stream community.
The event kicked off on a somber tone as LIJ Valley Stream Chaplain Arturo Trew said a prayer for a LIJ Valley Stream nurse who is in the ICU with COVID-19, as well as a nurse from Syosset Hospital, who lost her battle with COVID on Sunday.
The Valley Stream community was hard hit by COVID-19, including 44 LIJ Valley Stream nurses who fell ill with the coronavirus—fully 20% of NYSNA members at the hospital. During the COVID-19 surge, nurses were working under incredibly stressful and hazardous conditions. Due to the influx of coronavirus patients and nurses getting sick, staffing in the ICU and the Emergency Department was dangerously low, leading to concerns for quality patient care. In the ED, there were times when one nurse was trying to care for eight patients at once, and there were so many patients that intubation was happening in triage. In the ICU where one nurse usually cares for two critically ill patients, nurses were regularly caring for four patients at a time.
NYSNA nurses spoke out for safe staffing and quality patient care for the Valley Stream community, so that the conditions experienced in the first surge of the COVID-19 pandemic would never happen again. They also expressed outrage at the discriminatory treatment they say Northwell administration is giving to nurses and their patients.
“We’re out here today because nurses are still struggling. We had such a difficult time during the pandemic and we’re still struggling—for PPE, for basic supplies, for safe staffing, and for respect,” said Lydie Alexandre, RN, co-chair of NYSNA’s Executive Committee at LIJ Valley Stream. “We are not a demographic. We are human beings. All nurses and all patients deserve to be treated with dignity and respect—and that’s the message we’re sending Northwell today.”
Nurses are currently bargaining a contract with Northwell and seeking guaranteed safe staffing and benefits more in line with nurses at other Northwell facilities. Northwell Administration pointed to “demographics” as the reason that safe staffing, facility upgrades and other improvements cannot be made.
Sandra Marion-Armstrong, RN, and Grievance Chair at LIJ Valley Stream explained, “There’s a feeling Northwell doesn’t value this community. When we’ve asked the hospital to invest in upgrades and safety protocols like at other Northwell facilities, they say they can’t. They say quote “the demographics put us where we are.” What they are really saying is that the wealthier, whiter patients they serve at other facilities on Long Island deserve safer staffing and better infection control than our patients. I find that sentiment despicable. It goes against our principles as nurses who value every patient, and it should go against the principles of every healthcare institution.”
Nurses and their supporters are speaking out for healthcare justice to say that this diverse community deserves equitable care and COVID nurse heroes deserve respect. Several elected officials came out in support of NYSNA nurses, including Assembly Member Michaelle Solages, Assembly Member Taylor Darling, and State Senator Kevin Thomas.
NYSNA Board Member and LIJ Valley Stream nurse Yasmine Beausejour, RN, said, “The COVID-19 surge was a terrible time, but also a time when nurse felt celebrated. There are still signs everywhere in the hospital: heroes walk these halls. We just want Northwell to mean what they say. If you believe we’re heroes, treat us like heroes. Bargain a fair contract that respects our work and our sacrifice. Guarantee safe staffing in our contract, so we can deliver quality care to all of our patients.”
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit nysna.org.