Created: November 20, 2020 07:17 PM
ALBANY - Outside Albany Medical Center Friday morning, nurses of the New York State Nurses Association at AMC announced they plan to go on strike for one day on December 1 over "atrocious staffing" levels and "substandard PPE" and other conditions they believe undercuts safe patient care and threaten potential harm to nurses and their colleagues.
"We have just delivered our ten-day notice to management. It says that we will strike for one day on December 1. This is not something we set out to do, what we set out to do was make absolutely certain that our patients get the treatment they need and the quality care that they deserve," said Albany Stat Nurse Lenore Granich-Berghela.
The NYSNA nurses are demanding critical improvements in staffing and infection control as the hospital continues fighting a second wave of COVID-19.
Lenore Granich-Berghela added, "A pandemic is not a time for understaffing or cutting corners. For failing to supply us with equipment we need for our protection and also to keep our patients safe, it has created an unsafe working environment. Some of you may ask how can you strike? Patients are in need and there's a pandemic. To this I can only say, yes patients are in need. We cannot meet that nerd unless management recognizes its own obligation to patient care. [Thursday] night, the nurses once again voted in overwhelming majority to reject Albany Med's contract proposal that completely ignores retention. That completely ignores retention to improve staffing and ensure patient safety. It was insulting and Albany Med should be ashamed."
Hours later, Albany Med leadership outlined plans to ensure patient care during the one-day strike, including hiring temporary nurses and they encouraged all patients to keep their appointments, reminding the public they are open, safe and ready to continue fighting coronavirus.
President and CEO Dennis McKenna stated, "Let me assure you Albany Med is prepared, we will continue to care for our patients safely and without interruption. Albany Med has been dedicated to patient care, research and education since its founding and we will not abandon our mission."
McKenna adding the hospital "has made every effort to ensure the safety of our patients and workforce-from adequate supplies of personal protective equipment to necessary staffing levels."
McKenna says they had not had layoffs or furloughs.
"A strike is always by definition disruptive to a medical mission, but a strike in the middle of a pandemic for baseless reasons is totally irresponsible," added McKenna.
McKenna said NYSNA nurses have "exploited" the pandemic, but he considers the hospital's 2,000 nurses critical partners in the mission and dedication of their workforce especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Since the beginning, Albany Medical Center has negotiated in good faith with the union. That continues today. We've held 74 bargaining sessions with NYSNA, and we've reached 80 tentative agreements. While we were very hopeful we would avert a strike, we must first agree to a contract that's fair to all of our nurses and all our employees and is centered on patient care."
McKenna said the vote to strike was rushed, and some nurses did not get to vote. "The contract we've put in front of NYSNA involves safety, fairness and fiscal responsibility and quality, and it will not jeopardize our mission."
As the pandemic continues to surge, hospital leadership says they continue following CDC guidelines and if masks are re-used, they are cleaned with ultraviolet light or aerosolized hydrogen peroxide.
Copyright 2020 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company