Fulton County

Nurses’ union, Littauer Hospital officials to meet

As nurses and supporters from across the state rally in Albany this morning to push for safe staffin

As nurses and supporters from across the state rally in Albany this morning to push for safe staffing levels, nurses at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville are preparing to meet management in another round of bargaining on March 3.

It will be the first time the two sides have sat down together since a one-day strike and four-day lockout in early January.

“Things are still kind of back and forth between us and the management at Nathan,” said Tara Martin of the New York State Nurses Association. “However, we are confident that our nurses are going to be mobilized on March 3 to lay out some proposals that will address the staffing crisis in the hospital.”

The roughly 130 union nurses at the hospital staged a one-day strike on Jan. 6, followed by a four-day lockout by management, to protest what they’ve called unsafe staffing levels and bad faith bargaining by hospital management.

The union and management have been attempting to negotiate a new contract since late 2013.

Like at Schenectady’s Ellis Medicine and Niskayuna’s Bellevue Woman’s Center last year, negotiations have focused on increasing staffing levels and giving nurses more control over scheduling, as well as pay raises and increased benefits.

The rally in Albany this morning by a coalition calling itself the New York Campaign for Patient Safety, which consists of 14 unions and patient rights groups, is pushing for legislation to address those same problems statewide.

The Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, which has been proposed for about a decade, would set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, establish more stringent requirements for tracking and planning of staffing levels, give more power to nurses in setting schedules, and require public access to staffing plans, among other reforms.

According to a news release from the New York Campaign for Patient Safety, low staffing leads to increased risk of patient falls, bedsores, hospital-acquired infections, medication errors, and mortality.

Marian Enright, president of the Nathan Littauer NYSNA chapter, has blamed weak benefit offerings as a hurdle in attracting new nurses to fill vacancies.

Hospital management has maintained throughout the strike and negotiations that nurses are treated as well as the hospital’s other employees and that staffing levels are comparable to or better than other area hospitals.

Martin said the nurses will be going into negotiations on March 3 with new offers and fresh momentum from the strike and Tuesday’s rally.

“The community has come out and shown an amazing amount of support for these nurses — a lot of elected officials from across the state, other union members,” she said. “We’re going in to bargain in early March knowing that we’re not by ourselves, knowing that the nurses are definitely much more empowered than we were previously.”

Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, [email protected] or @kyleradams on Twitter.

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