UTICA, N.Y. — More than 100 nurses and supporters are expected to protest unsafe nursing staffing levels at St. Elizabeth Medical Center today, March 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“As nurses, quality patient care comes first, and management continues to ignore the needs of our community and our patients,” saidSheila Conley, RN. “For too long, management has refused to prioritize patient care and ensure safe staffing levels. The conditions at St. Elizabeth undermine the standards of care demanded by our practice and our profession,” said Conley, a 38-year-veteran of the hospital working in the Intensive Care Unit.
With these conditions, nurses at St. Elizabeth fear for their patients and their licenses. Since the pandemic started, over 20 percent of the staff nurses have left the hospital, which serves Utica’s most vulnerable and low income patients.
“Nurses are routinely doing the work of two or three RNs and are beyond exhaustion,” said New York State Nurses Association President Nancy Hagans. “Some are retiring early or resigning from their hospitals. Nurses have implored management at St. Elizabeth to put in place effective RN hiring and retention to fill the ranks of colleagues too sick to work under conditions management stubbornly refuses to effectively address.”
The NYSNA nurses have bargained in good faith to immediately address the critical staffing issues, including proposals that reflect:
- Safe Staffing requirements to ensure safe nurse to patient ratios.
- Fair and competitive wages, so nurses stay working in the community.
- Retroactive compensation and recognition for the work that was done through the pandemic.
- Compensation for the additional duty of training new staff- increase of this with the turnover.
- Incentives for more staff on the night shift.
St Elizabeth is owned by Mohawk Valley Hospital System, which had a surplus of $39 million through September 2021. During the same year, protests of Assignment (POA) filled out and given to management at the time nurses believe assignments pose harm to patients show that care is significantly at risk at St. Elizabeth. In 2021, 270 POAs were filled out, containing 1,054 RN signatures. The large majority of the POAs pertained to understaffing: categories of “inadequate staff” or “caseload too high” were prevalent.
“We’re calling on MVHS/St. Elizabeth management—help us help our patients,” Conley said. “Give us the nurses, support staff, and the tools we need to provide quality care our patients so desperately need.”