Yonkers: St. Joseph’s Medical Center Nurses Demand Safe Staffing, Fair Contract, Health Equity  

New York State Nurses Association at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers held a speak-out on Friday, Nov. 18
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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Yonkers, NY - Members of the New York State Nurses Association at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers held a speak-out outside the hospital on Friday, Nov. 18 at 12:00 p.m. The speak-out comes after nearly three years of contract negotiations. NYSNA members are demanding safe staffing and a fair contract for nurses and patients, including more investment in the hospital from CEO Mike Spicer. 

Nurses highlighted how St. Joseph’s Medical Center administration has failed to listen to its nurses and continues to violate contractual safe staffing ratios in the intensive care unit, psychiatric units, and emergency department. Nurses in the ICU often care for three patients, when the safe standard is a maximum of two patients per nurse. Long wait times in the emergency department are driving patients away, including the influx of new residents in the third largest city in New York state. 

NYSNA local President at St. Joseph’s, Hasan Hamam, RN, said: “Over the years, the community grew bigger, and the cases increased in acuity. However, the number of nurses didn’t grow as needed to care for these patients. Also, the working environment and the incentives to retain RNs are far less competitive compared to other local hospitals. We have lost, and keep on losing, good nurses that we needed so badly.”

Nurses emphasized how understaffing makes patients less safe, and lack of investment in the hospital’s staff and equipment is an issue of health equity in some of the poorest census tracts in Westchester. Despite the crisis in quality care, hospital administrators have been trying to lower safe staffing ratios through the contract process, and through the New York State Hospital Staffing Committee process - in direct violation of the new law.  

NYSNA local Vice President Renee Carson, RN, said: “I went into this profession to save and heal people — believing in patients over profits. Everyone who utilizes this facility deserves the best regardless of their ability to pay or status in life. Every patient is a VIP. Research has shown safe staffing saves lives. Nurses have fought hard for safe staffing legislation, because we as healthcare providers understand what patients deserve, but management is ignoring our input and trying to lower patient safety standards.” 

St. Joseph’s Medical Center nurses say they are tired of being understaffed and under-resourced, often scrambling for basic equipment to serve their patients. Nurses are demanding better for their patients and themselves. Nurses at St. Joseph’s have worked through the COVID-19 pandemic under an expired contract, leaving them with the lowest overall economic compensation of any acute care facility in Westchester County. The low wages and huge disparity in pay and benefits with neighboring facilities makes recruitment and retention difficult, furthering the safe staffing crisis.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said: “I want to thank the members of NYSNA for their continued advocacy and compassion. Being a nurse is more than just a job title. We’ve seen firsthand the incredible work that nurses do. As they continue to raise their voices, I hope management at Saint Joseph’s Medical Center can align with their needs and provide them with a contract they have worked so hard for. We know our nurses are dedicated and committed and we want them to be able to succeed so they can continue to provide outstanding patient care.”   

Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Tasha Diaz said: “Our nurses worked tirelessly during COVID without a contact to save lives.  A fair contract, adequate staffing, and addressing patient priorities in a timely manner is a fair ask to continue to service the community adequately.”  

Westchester County Legislator David Tubiolo said: “We cherish our nurses. They are one of the essential pillars of our healthcare system, and they deserve fair pay and a safe work environment.” 

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses and are affiliated with National Nurses United, AFL-CIO. For more information, visit nysna.org.

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