In late April, Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) laid off 78 nurses at St. Elizabeth Medical Center and furloughed approximately 20% of other essential workers, creating a staffing crisis and leaving the Utica community more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many laid off nurses are now returning to St. Elizabeth’s and finding understaffing that poses a threat to nurse and patient safety, closed units that are critical for providing care to the community, and a concerning lack of safety protocols to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis. The number of COVID-19 cases in the Mohawk Valley is still hovering at 100 -130 per week, and not going down.

MVHS has justified the staffing cuts that are devasting patient care and the Utica economy as necessary short-term cost savings to help pay for the new downtown hospital, which is years away from opening.

As patient advocates, nurses are speaking out against the current conditions at St. Elizabeth’s and demanding that MVHS put its patients first. They are making these demands at the bargaining table, as well, where the MVHS Administration is proposing givebacks that will make providing quality care to patients and retaining nurses even more difficult.

“There’s no doubt that the proposal put forth by MVHS will negatively impact nurse retention and recruitment,” said Lisa Streeter, RN, a member of the Executive Committee who has worked at the St. Elizabeth College of Nursing for more than 13 years. “We need all the laid off nurses to come back, and a fair contract that allows us to deliver the highest quality care to our community.”

Local NYSNA St. Elizabeth President Sheila Conley, RN, said as she delivered a 10-day notice to picket to MVHS Administration, “I gave 37 years of my entire career for this hospital. I feel like I was cut off at the knees, and I feel with this latest proposal we have no choice. On behalf of our members, I serve you with our 10-day notice to picket.”

WHO: NYSNA nurses

WHAT: Nurses picket for safe patient care

WHEN: Monday, June 29 from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM

WHERE: In front of St. Elizabeth Medical Center, 2209 Genesee St, Utica, NY 13501

As nurses, we will practice social distancing and take proper safety precautions during this event. Community members are invited, however, those who are immuno-compromised, over 60, or pregnant should stay home. All attendees must practice strict social distancing and wear proper PPE.

Lockwood Law

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