Catholic Health nurses rally over “staffing crisis”

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Nurses who work for Catholic Health say there is a staffing crisis and are pushing for new state laws that would mandate staffing ratios.

Dozens of Catholic Health nurses held thousands of forms filled out during the past two years, documenting what nurses deem to be staff shortages at their hospitals.

Jennifer Tuttle, Upstate Director of the Communication Workers of American, the union representing the nurses, said “They fill out a form alerting management that they can’t do this assignment safely. They worry about what’s going to happen to the patient and that they’re license might be on the line.”

Catholic Health responded by claiming most of the incident reports don’t pan out, and charged that the rally was politically motivated over contract negotiations at Sister’s Hospital’s St. Joseph’s campus.

But the union sees it differently.

“On staffing issues, we don’t have a productive dialogue, and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Deborah Hays, the CWA’s Upstate Director.

Catholic Health says “the union has not proposed any feasible solutions, and claims “…the union has refused to bargain as needed…and failed to respond to many of the hospital’s proposals.”

But nurses say many times they are overwhelmed by having to care for too many patients.

“I put in 17 hours that day,” said Tonya Holscher, a Registered Nurse.”I felt exhausted and I felt like I was not at my mental capability that I was when I started the shift.”

Safe staffing legislation has never made it to the floor for a vote in the New York State Senate or Assembly.

Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak of Cheektowaga said she is requesting that Governor Cuomo call a special session in Albany next week to pass the bill.

Nurses at Catholic Health say they are sometimes engaged at a “frantic pace” during their shifts. They say shortages lead some nurses to be placed in areas outside of their expertise.

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