Union cites nursing shortage in contract talks
POTSDAM, New York (WWNY) - The union representing nurses for St. Lawrence Health says hospital consolidations are making for harder work and worse patient care.
It comes as the union organizes a picket amid contract negotiations.
New York State Nurses Association representatives and several nurses held a virtual town hall Thursday.
They say maternity care is getting worse in the north country. If you factor in changes at Lewis County Health and at Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, they say, the north country lost nearly a quarter, 22%, of its beds for maternity care between 2000 and 2020.
The shortage of nurses is no secret, but the union says the north country lost 12.4% of its nurses between 2020 and 2022, while the number of nurses in the rest of the state rose by 5.5%.
On top of that, they say wages in the north country grew slower than most of the state for the last decade.
“It’s just simply not fair for them to go through this just because the health care system is literally taking services away to save money,” said Gregory Reynoso, who’s with the union’s political and community organizing department.
“We cannot afford to lose experienced nurses,” Canton-Potsdam Hospital nurse Sue Quinell said. “Thankfully, Canton College has great nurses they’re putting out, but they don’t stay. Nine nurses were hired last year and five or six have already left. It’s because we’re short-staffed and they don’t have insurance. These things are crucial to retaining nurses.”
“I’m in a weird position where I’ve only worked at CPH for five years and most of the time I’m one of the most senior nurses on the floor when I’m working,” said Morgan, another Canton-Potsdam nurse, “and that feels really strange to me.”
With contract talks underway, the union will hold a picket with nurses from Massena, Canton-Potsdam, and Gouverneur hospitals from 4 to 7 p.m. on April 20.
It will be held at Massena Hospital.
Prior to the union’s town hall, 7 News asked St. Lawrence Health about negotiations.
In a statement, it says, in part, “We recently presented several proposals related to wages and health insurance to address concerns raised by the union and had previously proposed recruitment and referral bonuses to help attract new nurses.”
It says contract discussions have been cordial and productive and cited a survey that said all New York hospitals have nursing shortages.
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