Nurses upset with hospital consolidation

Local nurses are calling the current realignment of hospital services in Schenectady County haphazar

Local nurses are calling the current realignment of hospital services in Schenectady County haphazard and are concerned it will affect their jobs and the care they provide to patients, a spokeswoman said, citing the scope and speed of the changes.

Ellis Hospital is shuffling many of St. Clare’s Hospital medical services to itself and to Bellevue Woman’s Health Center under a mandate by the state Department of Health.

As part of the transition, Ellis will take over St. Clare’s inpatient services, including its critical care and pediatric services. Bellevue will take over women’s health services, including births. Ellis took over Bellevue last year under the same state mandate.

St. Clare’s will surrender its operating license Monday and cease to function as a full-service Catholic hospital open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will remain open primarily as an urgent care center offering same-day services, but it will stop accepting inpatients after June 20. St. Clare’s opened in 1949 and is operated by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese.

Teresa Jewett, a registered nurse at Ellis for 32 years, said, “They have this plan on closing, but they did not have a plan on how to do it. One would think it would be done gradually and publicized. It is not happening that way. It’s been kind of like a mass delivery of services and a merger of seasoned staff into one facility.”

Jewett also is chairwoman of the local grievance committee of the New York State Nurses Association, the union representing 450 nurses at Ellis.

Ellis spokeswoman Donna Evans said, “Ellis Hospital has worked for many months to develop an extensive and detailed plan for this transition and a team of committed professionals has implemented it carefully over the past several weeks. The health and safety of our patients is always our top priority and has been at the forefront of every decision we have made. With nearly 250 St. Clare’s nurses joining our team, we are prepared to not just sustain, but enhance, the outstanding care for which both institutions have long been known.

“We have carefully assembled the right team of people, we have outstanding facilities and technology, and we’re ready to meet all the health care needs of our community at Ellis, at our new McClellan Campus [St. Clare’s] and at Bellevue. Our community expects and deserves nothing less and their expectations will be exceeded,” Evans’ statement concluded.

Dr. Brian Gordon, a county legislator and orthopedic surgeon, had no comment on the issue. Attempts to reach Dr. John Assini, president of the Schenectady County Medical Society, were unsuccessful.

State Nurses Association spokesman Mark Genovese said the “main concern of the nurses at Ellis and St. Clare’s is that the surrounding community that uses [St. Clare’s] has not been given sufficient notice about the impending closing. They are worried about the lack of access to care for the surrounding neighborhoods.”

He said nurses also are concerned that when the transition is complete, Ellis will not be properly staffed to handle the increased workload.


Jewett said Ellis is understaffed already but the new nurses will not be used to increase staff levels on the floors. The St. Clare’s nurses are being assigned to new beds that Ellis is opening in the C-wing, even though Ellis is experiencing increased patient loads on the floors and in its emergency room.

“We still remain below core staffing even with the new staff,” Jewett said. “Anytime you are understaffed, quality of care is always jeopardized. You want people to feel secure, and they are safe, but the nurse is burning herself out running around.”

The association bought an advertisement in Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Gazette. The ad asked whether the merger was “Leaving the community behind?”

It also stated the association was there for St. Clare’s nurses. Registered nurses at St. Clare’s are not unionized, but as part of the transition, they have the option to join the SNA. More than 100 St. Clare’s nurses have accepted job offers from Ellis.

Bellevue nurses also had the option to join the SNA; many haven’t, Jewett said. “There is a lot of misinformation there,” she said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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