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Ellis Hospital nurses say more staffing, security needed

Emily Burkhard
Created: March 03, 2020 12:19 AM

SCHENECTADY - Nurses at Ellis Hospital are sharing their safety concerns in the wake of a patient-involved stabbing and assault that left four people injured last week.

Nurses and representatives from New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said we could very well see more violent situations unfold if nothing is done.

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Nurses at Ellis said these issues exist at many hospitals and medical facilities across the state. That's why they're going to be at the Capitol on Tuesday pushing for legislation that would mandate minimum staffing ratios.

Nurses at Ellis said they're seeing new technology being implemented, but they aren't seeing new people being brought on to help them deliver the best care possible.

"They want us to work like a Toyota factory instead of a place where we're dealing with humans,” registered nurse Fred Durocher said.

Nurses taking care of Ian Castaldo, 27, on Thursday morning had called for help with a "code gray," multiple times before he got ahold of a pair of scissors and stabbed two nurses and assaulted two more people.

A "code gray" is called when a security officer is needed to help put a violent patient in restraints.

"This is something that's there on a daily basis,” Durocher said. “The police, when they have someone who they can't control but they don't know why, they can't arrest them, they bring them to us. Then they unhandcuff them and then they have to leave if they're not arrested and were there to deal with that."

Representatives from New York State Nurses Association, or NYSNA, said they had an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss potential solutions, but hospital officials told them their suggestions would be too costly.

"So when we asked about having security on units, stationed in the emergency room or units that are at risk,” NYSNA representative Lisa Blodgett said. “That was what we were met with. To actually get a clear plan, we did not get that."

A spokesperson for Ellis Medicine released this statement in response:

"The health and wellbeing of both our patients and staff is of utmost importance to Ellis Medicine, and we do all we can to ensure their safety at all times.

We intend to work with law enforcement authorities to fully investigate this incident and continue to take appropriate measures to protect our patients and staff.

The nurses involved in last night’s incident, as well as the Ellis security team, performed admirably in an extremely difficult situation. It is unfortunate that NYSNA would issue a press release exploiting the incident as a bargaining tool in our contract negotiations rather than giving their members the credit they deserve for their professionalism and excellence in patient care."

The labor agreement expired on February 28.

Blodgett said they've met with hospital staff 16 times since last summer and are no closer to striking a deal.

While safety concerns are a priority, Blodgett said establishing minimum staffing ratios will also give nurses the ability to take breaks and use the bathroom during their shifts, something that at this time isn't a guarantee.

"We want to give the best,” Blodgett said. “Give us the tools to give the best care that we can."

Blodgett said after the attack on Thursday she discovered another nurse had been assaulted at Ellis on Friday.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this story.


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