POUGHKEEPSIE – As contract negotiations ramp up between Vassar Brothers Medical Center and its nurses, the nurses are taking their pleas to the public. At a rally in front of the hospital on Wednesday, dozens of nurses, represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), rallied to bring awareness to what they deem “unsafe” conditions that risk patient health.
The nurses claim that each one of them is responsible for caring for seven to nine patients during their shift which drastically reduces their response times, leaving patients uncared for during their hospital stay. That is a battle cry that surfaces during every contract negotiating cycle.
“We’re really concerned about staffing ratios,” said Beverly Codrington, a nurse in the hospital. “Nurses are taking care of as many patients as possible – the best they can,” she said as her coworkers marched up and down the sidewalk with picket signs. Codrington also signaled that she doesn’t expect the conditions to improve when the new hospital is finally completed and occupied. “I haven’t seen any improvements in writing,” Codrington said.
Erica Francisco, a nurse in the Vassar Brothers Hospital Emergency Department, said conditions there are even worse. “We have patients that came into the emergency room that are still on stretchers in the hallways day later,” said the veteran nurse. The emergency room, according to Francisco, also has patients in there that have been admitted but cannot go upstairs due to a lack of beds. Francisco said that the staffing ratios, combined with a lack of available rooms at the hospital are leading to many issues that affect patient health and comfort.
Todd Bender, a reporter for Mid-Hudson News, recently spent several days at Vassar as a patient. “The nursing care was great but it was obvious that they were short-handed. Ringing the call button no longer means that a nurse will respond in mere moments. On more than one occasion, I relied on assistance from visitors rather than wait for the nurses.”
The physical conditions in the building were also less than hospitable, Bender said, noting that many of the air conditioning units were not working and elevators were out of service on one night. “At one point during my stay, a hospital employee came into my room to do drywall repair at 8:15 in the evening. There is no way that is an environment that promotes healing,” Bender said.
John Nelson, the hospital’s director of Public and Community Affairs said “Vassar Brothers Medical Center is committed to our nurses and the excellent care our clinical teams provide to our patients. We continue to bargain in good faith to reach agreement with NYSNA. An informational picket is an expected part of any contract renegotiation with NYSNA and will not affect the daily operations of the hospital. We are confident we will achieve a positive long-term solution for all, which will address NYSNA’s position and the community’s needs.”