BUFFALO, N.Y. — As a strike deadline looms, Catholic Health (CH) is making some service changes at two of its facilities.
Starting Wednesday, Mercy Hospital will divert ambulances to other facilities and suspend all inpatient elective surgeries. Ambulances will also be diverted from the Mercy Ambulatory Care Center (MACC).
The health care provider is currently in contract negotiations with CWA Local 1133. The union, which represents nurses and other health care workers, has set a strike date for this Friday, October 1. In a statement, Catholic Health says it continues to bargain in good faith, but that both sides remain 'tens of millions of dollars apart'.
CH says both facilities will remain open to walk-in patients and that all patients who enter the doors will receive emergency care. The temporary diversion status informs local EMS providers that the hospital cannot take patients brought in by ambulance and that they should be taken to other facilities.
"We believe these measures are in the best interest of our patients and community in light of the uncertainty regarding the potential strike, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and a steady increase in the number of COVID patients at Mercy Hospital and throughout our system," Catholic Health said in a statement. "For these reasons as well, we encourage patients with minor medical emergencies to consider relying on area urgent care centers, their primary care provider, or telemedicine services like our CH CareOnDemand at chcareondemand.org."
If a patient is unstable and Mercy is the closest appropriate hospital or specifically requests to go to Mercy, EMS will have the option of bringing the patient to the South Buffalo hospital.
These changes do not affect services at Sisters of Charity Hospital and its St. Joseph Campus, Kenmore Mercy Hospital and Mt. St. Mary's Hospital.
"We are disappointed the union is heading down a path to take nurses and other essential healthcare workers on strike as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our focus is on maintaining safe, high quality care at all our hospitals and limiting disruptions to our patients and their visitors should the union follow through with its strike threat at Mercy Hospital."