than 70 on and off duty nurses at Nyack Hospital picketed outside the facility
to draw attention to what they claim are unsafe patient/staff ratios and
contract talks stalled over medical insurance coverage.
“Staffing is an abysmal situation at this facility,” said Mike Hertz of the New York State Nurses Association during the Monday midday protest.
Judy Hecht, chairperson of the nurses grievance committee, said it is difficult to recruit and retain nurses at the hospital because of the problems with staffing. Hecht, who has worked at Nyack Hospital since 1974, said nurses on average are required to care for seven, eight or nine patients, which leads to safety issues for patients and nurses.
“But the goal is to have four to five patients per nurse which would be a much safer ratio,” she said, noting while the lower ratio is in effect in California the higher ratio is in place at other New York hospitals.
About 400 nurses work at the hospital. Hecht said they have received stacks of complaints about the assignments.
Local Bargaining Unit Chairperson Annamarie Perkins used a megaphone to speak to the protestors who walked along busy North Highland Ave, waving signs and pennants at passing motorists.
“We need safe staffing ratios and access to quality care,” she said. “The RNs at Nyack Hospital (have) put a safe staffing proposal on the table since the beginning of the negotiating sessions. The hospital refuses to address our concerns. All they’re interested in is changing our health plan. Their health plan proposal diminishes access to care and increase our costs dramatically.”
Nyack Hospital issued a release in response to the nurses’ grievances. It stated that patient care is the hospital’s top priority and staff levels are based on patient census and medical conditions and are “well within industry standards.”
It went on to say.
“We believe this picketing is not about patient care, but rather about a dispute over a revised benefits plan. Nyack Hospital employees have access to a comprehensive benefits plan. As a result of reduced reimbursements, the Hospital cannot continue to offer the same subsidy to employees. However, the benefits plan being offered remains comparable to and even richer than what other hospitals in the region offer. Nyack Hospital is bargaining in good faith and wants to reach agreement on a contract right away.”
Ann O’Meara of Nanuet said the nurses have been working without a contract since December 2012. Pat Shinners, who has worked at the hospital for 23 years, said patients many of them elderly are coming in sicker, because they are having problems with their medical insurance and postponing getting treatment.
“When they get here they’re usually very sick. Without safe staffing patients do not get the best care,” said the Bardonia resident.
Joanne Hodges of Pearl River has worked at Nyack Hospital for 27 years, 18 of them as a nurse. She said there is a strong sense of community and the nurses want to keep that. Hodges was born at the hospital as were her children and her father has surgery scheduled there for Friday.