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Albany Medical Center Discusses Operations With Unionized Nurses On 24-Hour Strike

Dave Lucas

Albany Medical Center nurses who are represented by the New York State Nurses Association walked the picket line Tuesday. Hospital officials held an afternoon news conference to share what they were experiencing inside the facility.

Hospital President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna called the strike "heartbreaking," but said there were no interruptions in patient care or hospital services.

"As for the strike, my belief is that it was nothing more than a reckless gamble. And they have struck out."

McKenna says the union rejected a contract offer the hospital put on the table Monday Night. NYSNA field director Eric Smith says it's the same package members voted on and rejected two weeks ago. He adds NYSNA did make a counter offer in the latest chapter of a two-year contract standoff.

"When the strike was, you know, at hand and about to happen, NYSNA compromised and moved on their position and submitted a counter, Albany Med did nothing."

McKenna says Tuesday went smoothly at the hospital.

"I am pleased to report that for the day shift today here at Albany Med, 408 Albany Med nurses are working today here in this hospital, all of our inpatient settings, outpatient settings, and faculty practice locations. And we know that many more have already told us that they were coming into work tonight to care for our patients on the evening and the overnight shift. So that number 408 will certainly grow. To put that in perspective, we had 538 nurses scheduled to work today. So right now, right now, 76% of all the shifts are being filled with Albany Med nurses."

Interim Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Louis Filhour says 700 temporary nurses were contracted for a three-day period, adding unionized nurses who participated in the strike cannot return to work on Wednesday.

"This is called delayed reinstatement and is not a lockout. If a nurse chooses not to work a scheduled shift today, managers will inform them that they have been replaced by a temporary nurse and they will not be permitted to work until the next scheduled shift starting at or after 7 a.m. Friday, December 4. Any attempt to return to work before 7 a.m. December 4 is not a protected action under this strike notice attempting to come on campus during the delayed reinstatement period, other than for medical care is a violation of hospital policy and will result in disciplinary action."

NYSNA’s Smith says nurses had "an extremely successful day on the strike line."

"We're not surprised whatsoever to hear about threats and intimidation for union activity. They've been doing this and we've gone to the federal government time and again, to the National Labor Relations Board, to fight them on these legal threats and intimidation tactics."

Albany Med officials addressed the soiled N95 mask depicted on posters carried by nurses. They explained each mask processed for reuse according to CDC guidelines is returned to its original owner, and that smeared make-up can make a mask look soiled, and soiled masks are thrown out. Again, Smith:

"These are medical doctors, standing up a press conference, saying, endorsing reusing single-use PPE. How can a medical doctor like Dr. McKenna sit in front of the press and admit to dangerously reusing PPE? He admitted it at his own press conference. I was shocked. The community should be shocked."

NYSNA represents over 2,000 Albany Med nurses. The strike continues until 7 a.m. Wednesday.

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