June 21, 2016
Poughkeepsie, NY – An informational picket in front of Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie last Wednesday highlighted the serious concerns of 1199SEIU members about the lack of staff to adequately meet patient’s needs and its potential impact on quality care.
When five and a half hours of informational picketing came to an end, more than 330 high-spirited members had turned out to join their co-workers on the line.
The members stepped up their action this week in response to management’s inattention to the problem. Over the last few months they have had meetings with Vassar Brothers administration and its parent company Health Quest, held a candlelight vigil, rallied and marched with community members and testiﬁed before local legislators. Still, workers are doing more with less, including working extra shifts.
1199SEIU Executive Vice President Gregory Speller said, “We’re stunned that the hospital could be so tone deaf to the needs of the workers and patients at the hospital. The workers have brought this to the attention of management innumerable times. If quality care is at risk, you can count on an 1199 healthcare worker to do everything possible to bring it to the attention of management. It is the hospital’s responsibility to the workers and the entire community to find a remedy, immediately. They must step up to the plate, now.”
Andrea Herrell has been a patient care technician (PCT) for more than a decade and has seen conditions deteriorate dramatically over the past year. “There should never be a case where one tech is taking care of more than ten patients at one time. You cannot provide excellent care like that. That is not safe staffing. If it is about the patients like they say, those patients deserve better.”
Hospital management has also recently implemented a new policy that allows them to penalize some workers when they need to take a sick day. For Sheila Ennist, who has been a PCT for nearly 17 years, the policy demonstrates a glaring lack of respect for dedicated staff. She hardly ever takes time off for illness.
“We take care of sick patients and sometimes we get sick. I work on pediatrics. I hug my patients, I cuddle them. I don’t want to be penalized if I get sick,” says Ennist. “We take care of everyone here and we should be able to stay home and take care of ourselves and our own kids if they are sick, without being afraid of losing our jobs.”
Federal, state and local elected officials with their staff representatives are standing strong with the hospital workers. In fact, after the picket, several of them walked in a letter of support to the administration that said “there should be nothing more important to the hospital administration than providing the highest standards of quality care. The hospital must be appropriately staffed to reach that goal. Anything less than that is unacceptable to the patients, the workers and our entire community.” In the meantime, the workers have vowed to continue pressing the hospital to do what’s right for the community and ensure there will be enough staff to meet patient needs.
The nurses of NYSNA also held a picket last Wednesday, to let the community know that the hospital has violated their newly negotiated staffing guidelines.