Potential Mercy Hospital strike looms as Catholic Health & CWA try to hammer out contract

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Time is running out to reach a deal to avert a major strike at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo.

For almost three weeks, CWA Local 1133 and Catholic Health have been trying to come to an agreement on contracts for approximately 2,500 employees.

If the two groups cannot hammer out a contract by 6 a.m. Friday, almost 2,000 Mercy Hospital workers will go on strike.

“I’m nervous, I’m scared, but I am willing to fight and stand up for what’s right,” said registered nurse and CWA Local 1133 Vice President Carrie Dilbert.

CWA Local 1133 leaders said while they’ve had productive discussions with Catholic Health, they’re still not close to coming to an agreement on a new contract.

Members are calling for three main things in order to prevent a strike: a healthcare plan that benefits all, higher wages and, their biggest concern, staff to patient ratio, as many nurses say they’re forced to care for several people at once.

“I work in the emergency room and it’s heartbreaking when I have to decide which critical patient I really need to take care of,” registered nurse Maureen Kryszak told News 4. “If someone dies, I should be able to spend time with their family. Instead I have to run out of the room and hope my other patients are still alive or breathing or are stable.”

Catholic Health CEO Mark Sullivan said they plan to sit at the bargaining table until a deal is reached.

“We want to get a deal done as soon as possible, again, that’s fair and equitable, provides competitive wages, addresses health benefits, other issues – staffing, with a trajectory to improve staffing, that’s what we’re committed to and that’s been a commitment of Catholic Health since day one,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan added that this comes as the hospital system is already dealing with staff shortages. Because of this, they’re having to end some services for the time being.

As of Wednesday, Mercy Hospital suspended labor and delivery services, as well as in-patient elective surgery. Ambulances are also being diverted from Mercy Hospital and Mercy Ambulatory Care Center in preparation of this potential strike.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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