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Albany Med Says It Is Prepared For Nurses' Strike

October 2020: ICU Nurse Jennifer Bejo says single-use N95 respirators are being “decontaminated” for reuse at AMC.
Dave Lucas

Nurses at Albany Medical Center have decided to hold a one-day walkout in their contract dispute with the hospital. Albany Med officials says they are prepared.

Nurses rallied Friday morning outside Albany Medical Center following months of failed negotiations. With another surge of COVID-19 underway, members of the New York State Nurses Association say they must take a stand against understaffing and a lack of personal professional equipment.

Nurse Lenore Granich-Berghela is an AMC Negotiating Committee Member.

"We have just delivered our 10-day notice to management. It says that we will strike for one day on December 1st.”

Granich-Berghela says Albany Med is cutting corners when it comes to PPE, requiring nurses to reuse masks, which has led to an unsafe working environment.

"The resources that we need to do the job right are not available. We cannot keep reusing masks, and we cannot continue with severe understaffing. AMC has unilaterally changed the terms and conditions of work and it has intimidated RN's for communicating with coworkers about the union. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating these unfair labor practice changes."

The New York State Nurses Association claims COVID and non-COVID patients have sometimes mingled as a result of overflow at the hospital.

Albany Med President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna says the hospital is compliant with all CDC guidelines and will continue to care for patients safely, without interruption.

"While we have cared for this region during the pandemic, NYSNA has exploited the pandemic. I consider our 10,000 colleagues a family I've called my own for over 20 years. As an emergency physician, I work alongside some of the finest, most skilled and compassionate professionals I may ever hope to know. Our 2,000 nurses are critical partners in our mission. The dedication of our workforce has been especially clear during the coronavirus pandemic, when our family has come together to face into the challenge of a generation. We are stronger together for our community and for each other."

In an email sent earlier in the day, hospital officials called the union’s statements "false” characterizing them as “unfounded, alarmist and completely irresponsible." The hospital says the union rejected a fair contract offer.

Albany Med officials say they're ready for a strike on December 1st.

Hospital General Director Ferdinand Venditti is Albany Med's executive vice president for system care delivery.

"All the preparations that we've been making to provide care to our community during this strike in the middle of a pandemic, including hiring of temporary nurses, have been well thought out and prepared in detail."

McKenna, Venditti and Albany Med Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Fran Spreer-Albert agree they are forging ahead in a spirit of unity:

"A strike will be a painful experience for Albany Med. There is absolutely no denying that. However, our mission will continue. And our commitment to our community and to our workforce, our entire workforce, will remain unfettered."

Again, Nurse Granich-Berghela:

"They can try to spin it all they want. But one thing that I can agree with Dr. McKenna on he is correct. You're entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

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