Utica nurses demand safe staffing

St. Elizabeth nurses are fighting for their patients.

Since nurses from St. Elizabeth Medical Center lined the Parkway in Utica on National Nurses Day, calling for an end to staffing cuts, they have not let up on hospital administration.

That’s because patient safety has been jeopardized. When MVHS laid off approximately 40 nurses and furloughed many more ancillary staff during the COVID-19 crisis, they created another crisis in safe patient care. Already struggling with the retention of experienced nurses and maintaining safe nurse-to-patient ratios on many units, the staffing cuts only made matters worse.

Endangering quality care

To add insult to injury, MVHS did not provide adequate notification of the layoffs, and improperly stopped paying nurses during the contractually required two-week period preceding a layoff. Nurses are fighting back and NYSNA has filed a grievance.

More action is underway. Nurses launched a petition and ad campaign calling on the administration to bring back the laid-off RNs, lift all RN hiring freezes, and prioritize frontline staffing that ensures safe patient care.

They also headed to the bargaining table to make their demands part of a new contract. The MVHS administration is proposing givebacks that will make providing quality care to patients and retaining nurses even more difficult.

Utica patients deserve better

“There’s no doubt that the proposal put forth by MVHS will negatively impact nurse retention and recruitment,” said Lisa Streeter, RN, a member of the Executive Committee who has worked at the St. Elizabeth College of Nursing for more than 13 years. “We need the laid off nurses to come back, and a fair contract that allows us to deliver the highest quality care to our community.”

St. Elizabeth nurses served a 10-day notice to picket beginning on June 29 from 11 – 1:30 PM. LBU President Sheila Conley, RN, delivered the notice to management. “I gave 37 years—my entire career— for this hospital. I feel like I was cut off at the knees, and I feel with this latest proposal we have no choice. On behalf of our members, I serve you with our 10-day notice to picket.”

The Utica community deserves better, and nurses will continue to advocate at the bargaining table and beyond, to win the safe staffing that nurses and patients deserve. To show solidarity with St. Elizabeth nurses, sign and share their petition: https://nysna.salsalabs.org/bringbackthenurses.

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