Hundreds of nurses at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady plan a 24-hour strike September 3rd if staffing conditions don't improve. The nurses' contract ran out back in March 2014.
Gabriel Kristal is the nurses union's upstate area director. "The employer has refused to move and we've got to a place where we've had no choice except to submit a notice, a 10-day notice for a one-day strike, because this employer has consistently bargained in bad faith."
Try as they may, the New York Nurses Association and Ellis administrators have not been able to come to an agreement. The sticking point is what the union refers to as "safer staffing levels": the ratio of nurses working to patients requiring care. In short, the union contends, more nurses need to be working in order to to provide adequate care for Ellis' patients.
Ellis nurse Denise D'avella spoke on Time Warner Cable News: "You can't humanly provide that kind of care. You can't be in two places at once and you so desperately want to because you know that just more than one patients need you but you can't do it."
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy is urging hospital management to put a contract in place that serves the needs of nurses and patients before the scheduled strike.
Ellis officials have decreed that to ensure continuity of care for patients, nurses who join in the 24-hour job action will not be permitted to return to the job for at least five days. Kristal questions the wisdom of that decision. "We were just informed yesterday that these nurses who participate in this lawfully protected activity will not be allowed back in to take care of their patients at the conclusion of that 24 hours, and will in fact be locked out for a minimum of four days. And we think of this as not only as just plain irresponsible and mean, but it's actually dangerous to our community and shortsighted."
Ellis did not disclose the name of an outside staffing agency it has selected to send in nurses in the event the nurses walk out.
Ellis Medicine responded to a request for comment by email.
Here’s the full statement from Ellis Medicine:
Ellis Medicine has been negotiating in good faith since January of 2014. We’ve had more than two dozen sessions and have offered a number of different proposals. Today, we received noticed of a strike from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). We are committed to working with NYSNA to reach an agreement that puts our patients’ needs first, while achieving the right balance between meeting the needs of our employees and their families and securing the long-term financial future of Ellis Medicine as one of the largest non-profit employers in Schenectady. We have presented a proposal that is competitive and fair in regards to compensation, benefits and pay practices and is among the most generous plans in all of Schenectady County and the healthcare region at-large.
We already have plans in place to ensure that we are able to provide for our patients during this labor action. Our overall concern is providing healthcare for our community.
To assist in this, Ellis Medicine has provided official notice to NYSNA officials that, should they strike, Ellis will not allow the nurses to return to work for a minimum of up to five days. This helps us ensure continuity of care for our patients, which, as always, is our foremost concern.
Despite these actions, we hope to be able to continue discussion with NYSNA to find a solution that works for our valued staff nurses, while allowing us to provide for our community for the long term.