BUFFALO, N.Y. — Health care workers at Erie County Medical Center are the latest hospital employees to voice concerns now that contract negotiations between New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and ECMC have begun.
"Plenty of nursing schools with wait times, plenty of nursing schools with a waiting list. Not so many facilities with good working conditions though," ECMC ER nurse Lona DeNisco said.
"It's not a nursing shortage. It's a shortage in the facilities to provide the safety, and competitive wage, and the things that we deserve to do patient care properly."
Steve Bailey with NYSNA said ECMC wouldn't be able to go on strike. That's because it's a public hospital, and it also acts as a safety net whenever something happens at another one of our region's hospitals.
That doesn't mean NYSNA can't help them fight for a better contract, though.
They intend to, showing up outside ECMC on Thursday afternoon to voice how upset they've been with low staff, supplies, and wages, in addition to unsafe working conditions.
"We know they're going to cry poor. We know they're going to say we don't have the money. We know they're going to say staffing, we can't do anything about it. But your budget reflects your priorities," Bailey said.
Added ECMC ICU nurse Crystal Knihinicki: "Many of my professionals have left entirely or moved somewhere else."
There are more 1,300 nurses at ECMC. In a statement from officials there, they say they look forward to productive conversations with NYSNA.
ECMC officials say they look forward to productive conversations with NYSNA and add they did raise pay earlier this year to recruit more than 280 nurses.
Still, employees want their demands met.
"We will not accept the pandemic that staffing is the new normal. We will not allow you to take things back to pre-COVID where we just will wait until the next crisis to hit, we're going to build a workplace that's stronger than ever and can weather whatever the future holds," Bailey said.
ECMC's full statement:
"We are looking forward to productive discussions with NYSNA as we have had in the past. We agree that staffing has been a concern for hospitals locally and nationally. That's why this year, we developed an agreed upon staffing plan with NYSNA and approved a mid-contract 7.75% increase in wages for our RNs to be more competitive in the market and support recruitment. This year, ECMC has successfully recruited 230 RNs and 51 LPNs. We are hopeful that our union partners will also work with us to garner necessary resources from government and private payors, so we can adequately serve the most vulnerable in our community in the midst of unprecedented financial uncertainty."