'We can do better': CVPH nurses picket hospital for more staffing, services

FERNANDO ALBA/Staff Photo A picketer walks by CVPH's Beekman Street's entrance holding a sign reading, "Health before Wealth," Wednesday in Plattsburgh. Demonstrators, which included healthcare workers, called for more staffing and more services during the demonstration. 

 

PLATTSBURGH — Members of the University of Vermont Healthcare Network Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital’s nurses union again demonstrated outside the hospital Wednesday afternoon, calling for more staffing and better patient care.

Wednesday’s picket by CVPH’s Beekman Street entrance was joined by about 200 healthcare workers, members from other local unions and local residents.

RESPECT

“We can do better for our patients, for our community. Now that COVID is on the rise again, I think we need their support,” Amy LaValley, a registered nurse at CVPH who picketed Wednesday, said.

“That’s basically why I’m out here; to get the community to stand behind us because we’re not getting any respect from the management.”

Wednesday’s picket was the New York State Nurses Association at CVPH’s third demonstration of the year, where members called for a new contract that would include limits on the number of patients nurses see, the hiring of more employees and the return of services lost for local patients after the hospital’s restructuring last fall.

"In all areas of the hospital, our staff is stretched to the breaking point,” Victoria Davis-Courson, a registered nurse at CVPH, said.

“Quality patient care suffers when there are not enough nurses and frontline healthcare professionals to care for patients. We are coming together to demand safe staffing and a fair contract that protects patient care."

SAFE STAFFING

Davis-Courson said nurses at CVPH have been pushing for the inclusion of safe-staffing language — which would require patient-nurse ratios that would give nurses more time to spend with patients — in their contracts for about 10 years.

Safe staffing’s inclusion has been a sticking point in the latest rounds of negotiations for a new contract, which nurses at CVPH have been without since last September.

“It’s been volatile at times, but we’re working through it,” Davis-Courson said of the negotiations between the union and the hospital’s administration.

“The biggest thing we want is the safe staffing language in our contract, and there is a lot of resistance to that. We don’t really know why.”

Facing staffing shortages — which now number more than 200 across the hospital, according to NYSNA — from CVPH’s restructure last year, which was further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis-Courson believes safe staffing in nurses’ contracts would better retain employees.

WAIT TIMES

But until the shortages are addressed, Davis-Courson said patients will continue to likely face longer wait times and lesser care.

“We try our best,” she said. “There are times when we have to go off of a unit to get a patient or to get supplies a patient needs. We’re having to take more and more time away from our patient care, our bedside care to do these other things.”

“There’s just not enough nurses to go around. Sometimes when we go in, we hope that we have our four-patient assignment on that surge, but sometimes we go in, and they’re asking people to take more patients,” Davis-Courson said.

Healthcare workers at Wednesday’s picket also pushed for the return of services that now require local residents to travel to Burlington or Albany for, saying travel can lead to lesser care and financial issues for patients.

The services moved include MRCPS, endoscopy, interventional radiology and medical home, according to NYSNA.

HOSPITAL RESPONSE

CVPH expressed its support of its nurses’ right to picket Wednesday, saying it shares “their frustration with the critical staffing shortage faced by the entire health care industry. They are not alone in their concern,” Michelle LeBeau, president of CVPH and Alice Hyde Medical Center said in a statement.

“We look forward to our next negotiation session on Oct. 6 to work toward a contract that values our employees, supports our mutual commitment to our patients and takes into account the realities of this organization and the health industry as a whole.”

Email Fernando Alba: 

falba@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @byfernandoalba

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