For Immediate Release: Tuesday, August 2
Contact: Kristi Barnes | firstname.lastname@example.org | (646) 853-4489
Hundreds of Nurses at Vassar Brothers Medical Center Rally and Speak Out for Fair Wages, Safe Staffing, and a Fair Contract
Nurses Highlight Unsafe Staffing, 19-hour Wait Times in the ER, Patients Diverted Away, and Exhaustion from Mandatory Overtime
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.– Hundreds of members of the New York State Nurses Association at Vassar Brothers Medical Center held an informational picket in front of the hospital today. They marched, rallied, and spoke out for better conditions and a fair contract for nurses and patients.
Last week, wait times in the emergency department reached 17-19 hours at times, and labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care units stopped taking patients for a time period because they did not have enough staff. Nurse-to-patient ratios in the main medical-surgical areas of the hospital have gone as high as 1 nurse to 8 or 9 patients, instead of a safe standard of 1 nurse to 5 or 6 patients. Nurses are being mandated to work overtime, despite the New York State legislature passing bills in June that limit mandatory overtime for nurses. The bills are awaiting Governor Kathy Hochul’s signature to become law.
Nurses are sounding the alarm about working and patient care conditions and Vassar management’s unwillingness to listen to the nurses and negotiate a fair contract that would improve conditions for both nurses and patients.
Margaret Franks, BSN, RN, said: “I know people in our community are getting a taste of the unsafe staffing conditions that nurses experience in the hospital. Patients are spending up to 17 to 19 hours in the emergency room to be seen. If they get admitted, they may become a nurse's eighth or ninth patient. That is unacceptable. We’re looking for the community to come out and support us so that we can get a fair contract. This is their community hospital– we’re not just fighting for us; we’re also fighting for them.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than two years ago, Vassar nurses working on the frontlines have been understaffed and under-resourced. They have not received COVID-19 crisis pay, signing bonuses, retention bonuses, or other incentives, unlike healthcare workers at many other hospitals, all while Vassar’s executives received raises and large bonuses.
In 2020, CEO John Murphy’s total compensation was more than $14 million, a 426% increase from 2019 levels, largely due to $12.8 million in fringe benefits. In 2021, after articles contrasting his high executive pay with hospital losses in revenue due to the pandemic, his compensation dropped precipitously but is still nearly $1 million. Eight Nuvance executives including Murphy were paid more than $1 million a year in 2020, and three executives were paid more than $1 million a year in 2021.
Lianne Lotaj , RN, a Vassar nurse of 17 years who has worked in critical care and on the STAT team, experiencing conditions throughout the hospital, said: “Vassar nurses deserve salaries that are competitive with nearby hospitals. We deserve to be fairly compensated for the work we do, but management at Vassar and Nuvance has failed to offer recruitment and retention incentives that would keep nurses at the bedside. We need more nurses to deliver the standard of care that our community deserves.”
NYSNA nurses are demanding that Vassar and its parent company, Nuvance Health, come to the table and negotiate a fair contract that respects nurses and patients and will help deliver the safe staffing and quality care that patients deserve. Instead of investing in executive salaries and superficial improvements like landscaping, NYSNA nurses are demanding management invest in what really matters—quality patient care and the staff who deliver it. They head back to the bargaining table next week.
 Report 19b - Salaries and Fringe Benefits of the Ten Highest Paid Health System Employees, Accessed at Connecticut’s Office of Health Strategy Hospital Reporting System: https://dphhrswebportal.ct.gov/Reports
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.