‘Listen to Your Healthcare Heroes’ Demand CVPH Nurses and Healthcare Professionals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 15, 2022
Contact:  Kristi Barnes | press@nysna.org | 646-853-4489 

Hundreds March in Informational Picket to Protest Unsafe Staffing and to Demand a Fair Contract to Address Hospital Conditions  

Plattsburgh, N.Y. – Hundreds of members of the New York State Nurses Association at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) held an informational picket in front of the hospital today. They marched and chanted with handmade signs for hours throughout the day. Several members spoke out, highlighting deteriorating working and patient care conditions, and calling on the hospital to respect labor law and negotiate a fair contract. 

The nurses and healthcare professionals at CVPH have worked for two years through the COVID-19 pandemic, risking their own health and the health of their families. During that time, they experienced an unlawful corporate restructure by CVPH’s parent company, University of Vermont Health Network, which led to job cuts and understaffing throughout the hospital, as well as cuts to essential healthcare services.  

Understaffing throughout the hospital and especially in the emergency room (ER) have grown in recent months, putting patient safety at risk. CVPH nurses who spoke out described the ER as “a war zone,” “in crisis,” “a hot mess,” and “insane.” 

Emergency room nurse Heather Cartee, RN, said: “The new normal is patients held for days in the ER. They are on stretchers in the hallways. Patients are missing their food, diagnostic tests and medications. In this environment, patient safety is at risk. There is a risk in delaying care. There is a risk that an overworked and understaffed nurse could miss a subtle sign of something serious and emergent in a patient’s condition. The new normal is really insane.”

Instead of agreeing on a plan to recruit and retain the nurses and healthcare professionals needed to deliver compassionate, quality care, CVPH has relied on expensive travel nurses to fill the holes. Most days, the temporary travel nurses outnumber well-trained, experienced local staff.

NYSNA represents nearly 800 nurses, pharmacists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, laboratory staff, and other healthcare professionals at CVPH. The members’ contract expired on Sept. 30, 2020, and they have been bargaining for nearly two years. They are demanding a contract that will stop the exodus of experienced local employees and help the hospital recruit the necessary healthcare workers. They believe a good healthcare plan is essential, and health benefits have become a flashpoint in bargaining. CVPH is trying to cut health benefits, which will reduce access to care and increase costs for many of the members.  

Medical-surgical nurse Vicki Davis Courson, RN, said: “If I cannot stay healthy, how can I keep my patients healthy? We are just asking for what we deserve—to keep our benefits. Good health benefits are important to me and my family. It is not right that the hospital I work for wants to limit my healthcare choices and increase my costs.”   

Bobbi-Jo Otis, RN, Co-Chair of the NYSNA-CVPH executive committee said: “This hospital cannot survive and provide the quality care the North Country deserves if we lose more staff, more services, or our health benefits that keep us healthy and able to care for this community. We need CVPH to come to the table and negotiate in good faith. We need a fair contract with a real plan to hire, retain and respect the people who work for the health of this community!”

Video news release available:

B-Roll at https://www.dropbox.com/s/evpk060lau2hzan/NYSNA%20VNR%20BROLL.mp4?dl=0
SOTS at https://www.dropbox.com/s/nxot4hggh1xbb29/NYSNA%20VNR%20SOTS%20.mp4?dl=0

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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, visit nysna.org.

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