Capital District RNs stay the course
As negotiations at Ellis Hospital, Bellevue Woman’s Center and Nathan Littauer Hospital continue, members and the community recognize the spirit and resolve of nurses to persevere on issues of safe staffing. On April 3, in a lengthy article, the Schenectady Daily Gazette profiled the Ellis nurses’ struggle, and shared poignant examples of the impact of short staffing on patient care. Nurses reported that the situation is particularly deleterious in the emergency department following the closure of nearby Saint Clare’s Hospital ED, compounded by Ellis’ 20 ED vacancies. Kellie Gauthier, Ellis RN with 15 years of ED experience, told the Gazette: “Nurses are forced to let the care of their less-urgent patients fall to the wayside because there aren’t enough nurses to absorb their patient load when high-acuity patients come through the door.” That comment applies to a majority of hospitals staffed by our members.
Safe staffing is our priority. While management has put wage increases on the table, which is appropriate, we continue to put forward our staffing demand. “Everything that I am as a nurse is offended that management thinks I can be bought with a Schedule A. This entire contract has been about staffing,” said Catherine Lucas, RN.
Central New York nurses on the move
Samaritan nurses take action on safe staffing
After months of management inaction on a substantial volume of POA filings and repeated, detailed complaints about chronic unsafe conditions, Samaritan Medical Center RNs regrouped and implemented a new unit-based strategy that is beginning to yield results.
Meetings were held in each unit to collectively identify and discuss issues impacting nurses and patients. Issues were prioritized and designated as either a grievance or a matter of organizing. The result: units developed a detailed, multi-phase campaign plan that includes petitions, grievance filings and information requests. The high degree of nurse input led to petitions with overwhelming levels of support: 90 percent or more of nurses within each unit signed on; in some instances all unit nurses signed. Within days of presenting the first round of petitions, senior management met with nurses and posted two full-time positions, with commitments of more postings to come.
The nurses are satisfied with initial results but are committed to maintaining the campaign when necessary. Jill Schloemer, RN in the hospital’s ICU/PCU, praised the unit-based approach for its added benefit of “helping us build a strong organization and momentum for contract negotiations this summer.”
Inter-regional sparks coordinated contract campaign
Members from throughout Central New York participated in the Utica Interregional meeting on April 23. Contracts expire this summer at three hospitals employing 1,000 RNs: Samaritan Medical Center (Watertown), Oneida Hospital and St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center (Utica). Representatives reached a unanimous agreement to work together to formulate principles and coordinate bargaining — a first for the region.