Ellis Medicine RNs to Issue 10-Day Notice to Strike As Talks Stall Around Patient Care and Safer Staffing

Nurses Have Charged Hospital Management with Not Staffing Enough Nurses for Safe Patient Care

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UPDATE: NYSNA reaches tentative agreement with hospital early this morning!

THANK YOU to everyone who has stood with our Brothers and Sisters at NYSNA over the past 20 months! Your commitment to solidarity, your letters, emails, phone calls, and time spent joining informational pickets has all played a huge part in amplifying the voices of our NYSNA RNs, and bending the ear of Ellis management towards cooperation and justice.

STRIKE and PICKETS CALLED OFF

SCHENECTADY, NY – As calls to increase numbers of registered nurses at Capital Region area hospitals grow louder — by the public, elected officials, public health experts and by nurses and caregivers themselves — members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) at Ellis Medicine announced today that they have issued the required 10-day notice today of their intent to conduct a one-day strike. The decision came after fruitless negotiating sessions held with management and a federal mediator following the nurses’ overwhelming vote in June to authorize a strike.  The nurses will take to the picket lines to advocate for quality patient care for Schenectady residents, in what will be the largest-ever nurses strike in Capital Region history.  “The registered professional nurses of Ellis Medicine have sent management a very clear message about how serious we are about safe staffing,” said Patricia Donahue, a post-anesthesia care unit nurse at Ellis Hospital for 34 years. “Safe patient care is a basic human right and all nurses should have a say in how patient care is delivered. Who better than the person who does the job of caring every day to have that input.”

RNs in the bargaining unit, which represent just over 600 nurses, have presented proposals to management that would raise patient care standards, provide affordable healthcare for caregivers, safer staffing ratios for nurses and fair wages that meet the state median for RNs.  But so far, management at Ellis Medicine has resisted the RNs’ proposals to do what is right for Capital Region patients.

“The nurses at Ellis Hospital are the first line of delivering high quality health care for Schenectady and the region,” said Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy. “Adequate staffing is key to ensuring excellent patient care standards. I would urge all parties to return to the negotiating table and come to a fair contract that allows Ellis Hospital to continue to provide the high quality health care the community has come to expect.”

Some of the proposals put forward by hospital management at Ellis Medicine could have dire consequences for quality patient care, as well as the local economy.  Hospital managers have been looking at ways to boost revenue through outpatient clinics and services, outsourcing vital services outside of the hospital, and fast-tracking patients. For example, in the Emergency Department, there are continuous staffing shortages with no consideration for the number of patients waiting for beds that still need immediate treatment.  

“Every nurse at Ellis is deeply committed to providing our patients with the best care possible. We’re asking management to include key patient care protections, like safe staffing guidelines, that save lives and produce better health outcomes,” said Fred Durocher, an emergency room nurse at Ellis Medicine.  “We are willing to do whatever it takes to fight for the safety and well-being of our community’s healthcare because that’s what we do.”

Elected officials, labor and community leaders are standing in support of the Ellis RNs in their move to strike.  The following leaders are lending their support to the Ellis RNs on their move to strike:

“Nursing is a critical profession that provides unparalleled service to our community,” said Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie). Nurses deserve a safe and suitable working environment for their indispensable service that allows the best possible care for those who need it most.”

“Nurses are an integral component of quality patient care at Ellis Medicine and I am confident that they would not take this measure unless they were deeply concerned about our community’s well-being,” said Niskayuna Town Supervisor Joe Landry.

“I am supportive of the nurses’ actions,” said Schenectady City Councilmember John Mootooveren. “I would like to take this opportunity to call on Ellis management to negotiate in good faith, look at increasing the staffing ratio, so that nurses can continue to give quality care, after all Nurses Save Lives.

“Our community relies so heavily on our healthcare workforce to be there for us when we need them the most. Nurses are our frontline care providers and we need to listen to them when they tell us that their patient loads are unsafe and not conducive to quality health outcomes,” said Schenectady City Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo.

“We fully support the nurses represented by NYSNA who are dedicated professionals with the experience and expertise vital to the short and long term care, health and well- being of their patients. They have been standing up for the patients who depend on them, but unfortunately have been given no other choice than to strike,” said Mario Cilento, President of the NYS AFL-CIO. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters who deserve a fair contract.  They will continue to have the full resources of the New York State AFL-CIO at their disposal throughout this contract fight.”

“I’m proud to stand with these NYSNA RNs today.  These nurses aren’t only bargaining for their own basic needs, but are bargaining for solutions to staffing issues that affect the quality of healthcare received by every member of our community,” said Frank Natalie, Executive Vice President of the Capital District Area Labor Federation/AFL-CIO.  

“They heal and comfort us in their daily work and carry us with them when they’re ‘off the clock,’ as they advocate for policies that will improve patient care for everyone.  NYSNA RNs deserve the security of working under a collectively bargained contract that protects them and the patients they’ve dedicated their lives to.”

“The community has to understand that nurses’ working conditions are their healing conditions and these nurses are striking to improve your healing conditions,” said Michael Silvestri, Vice President of the Schenectady Teachers Union/NYSUT.

“We stand for the nurses at Ellis who provide critical care for the community,” said Brian McDonnell, Political and Legislative Director of AFSCME.

“The Capital Region Building & Construction Trades Council stands with the registered nurses of Ellis Medicine who are fighting for our community’s healthcare and we call upon hospital management to settle a fair contract that protects patient care,” said Jeff Stark, President of the Capital Region Building & Construction Trades Council.
“Ellis Hospital is one of the only critical health facilities in our region. Our families depend upon these hospitals to provide the best medical possible,” said Bill Cook, President of the N.E. N.Y. Branch 358 NY State Association of Letter Carriers/AFL-CIO.   “Branch 358 of the National Association of Letter Carriers believes that top flight medical care begins with the hospitals providing sufficient professional staff and working together to deliver that care. We are concerned about the lack of resolution of safe patient staffing at these two hospitals. Branch 358 is asking the management of both hospitals to meet with the Nurses Association to arrive at an agreement for the right staffing levels now.”