BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – More than 15,000 healthcare workers statewide are marching in Albany, advocating for state funding.
1199SEIU local is organizing Tuesday’s rally and sending more than 200 workers to Albany to join in on the march.
“This is a historic mobilization of healthcare workers across the state,” said 1199SEIU VP of WNY nursing division Grace Bogdanove.
SEIU is urging Governor Kathy Hochul to invest $2.5 billion in healthcare in the 2024 state budget.
“Funding for facilities means fixing this crisis, it means improving wages and benefits for healthcare workers across our region, and being able to provide the services and the care that residents need,” Bogdanove said.
Shameka Burlette-Matthews will be one of the 200 union workers from Buffalo making the drive. She’s been a clinical assistant at Oishei Children’s Hospital for 13 years.
“With more funding we can get better equipment,” she said. “We don’t have to share equipment with downstate New York as we did at the height of the pandemic. It’ll help bring in more staffing and training.”
Area hospitals continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic, including overflowing emergency rooms, long wait times for bedside care, and hospitals on the brink of closure.
Kaleida Health spokesperson Michael Hughes commends healthcare workers for advocating for better quality care for patients.
“While the pandemic has been declared over, it’s still impacting the hospitals and healthcare,” Hughes said to News 4. “So I think it’s vital the state invest in helping rebuild healthcare across New York state.”
Workers are also asking the state to close the Medicaid gap and increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals and nursing homes, restore the 700 million dollars in safety-net funding, and raise the minimum wage to $21.25 by 2027.
“Since the pandemic, we weren’t able to get together in such a large number so it’s going to be beneficial for the governor to see us come down and united and standing strong and just rally together,” Burlette-Matthews said.
Union workers in Buffalo will be boarding a bus for Albany at 5 a.m. Tuesday outside union headquarters on main street. The rally starts just before 2 p.m. in Albany.
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Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.