Hundreds of unionized Albany Medical Center nurses picketed Wednesday outside the hospital.
A sea of red shirts lined the New Scotland Avenue sidewalk outside the 766-bed facility as the New York State Nurses Association continued its call to increase the staff-to-patient ratio at the hospital, arguing patient care is being impacted.
A union spokesperson says last year, most of the 2,000 nurses employed at Albany Med voted to join NYSNA. Since then, contract negotiations have been ongoing.
"We have about almost 200 vacancies for nurses positions at Albany Med," says Nurse Jennifer Bejo , who has spent the last 13 years in the hospital's ICU: "We the nurses love to take care of our patients. We love taking care of our patients at Albany Medical Center and Hospital. But at this point, we have a crisis right inside the hospital. Most significantly is staffing. We are bleeding inside, we're losing nurses and we're working like, you know, double time, we're exhausted, we're tired, and you know like after we won a contract last year, we feel like bargaining for our contract that we've been waiting for, a fair contract that would reflect how we protect our patients, that would reflect better benefits for all nurses."
Several regional trade unions sent representatives in a show of support. Democratic New York State Assemblyman Phil Steck also joined the picket line. “In the American economy as a whole, we have to concentrate on getting people’s wages up. That’s what drives the economy forward, not people making more and more money at the top. This has been going on all across the American economy, and I congratulate these nurses for saying enough is enough.”
Organizers say well over 500 nurses attended pickets during Wednesday's morning and afternoon sessions. R.N. Andrew Degiacomo works in the Vascular Surgery unit. The 9-year veteran says the staff shortage is putting patients at risk and he's disappointed in management. "They don't have seasoned, good people to fill their positions, and that' s because they don't keep people. And they don't keep people because they don't pay people. And what ends up happening is good, innocent, sick people end up sitting in feces and urine and end up being in absolute jeopardy, because they're in complete denial over this crisis, which is staffing shortages at the hospital right now."
Albany Med continues to maintain it is negotiating “in good faith." Hospital Spokesman Jeffrey Gordon texted WAMC a statement in response to a request for comment:
"Today it is business as usual for Albany Med. The patients and public will see no disruption in care whatsoever. Albany Med has been negotiating in good faith for more than a year to achieve a contract that is fair to all of our employees and to all of our nurses. We cannot agree to any deal so costly that it endangers our ability to deliver the highest quality health care to people in our region. All decisions, on staffing and every other aspect of our hospital, are made to ensure we deliver the highest quality care to our patients in the safest possible environment."
Again, Jennifer Bejo: “We’re raising awareness to the community, for them to know that we are fighting for something big. Big. Bigger than what we ever thought.”
Contract negotiations have been ongoing for over a year.