Mercy Hospital staff prepares to head back to work on Wednesday following 5 week strike

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BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) – Starting tomorrow, hundreds of workers will return to Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, with better pay and better staffing. After striking for five weeks, CWA members voted “yes” on a new deal with Catholic Health.

Union members say they’re ready to move forward.

“Now that that’s done, and that the contract has been ratified, it’s time for us to get back inside and continue the work we started on the streets, inside the hospital,” CWA Area Director Debbie Hayes said. “I want all of our members to return to work tomorrow, with their heads held high, feeling proud and accomplished, with everything they have done.”

The services returning to Mercy Hospital Wednesday include:

  • Full emergency services, including ambulance transport
  • Labor & Delivery services, including Level ll Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
  • Cardiac and Stroke services, including Mercy Hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center and Heart Center
  • Offsite primary care and outpatient services at the Mercy Diagnostic & Treatment Center in West Seneca, Mercy Diagnostic Center in East Aurora, Mercy Comprehensive Care Center in Buffalo, and Women’s Health Center in Buffalo
  • Emergent and urgent surgical cases will continue to be performed as needed, while inpatient and outpatient elective surgery are expected to resume soon

As Catholic Health prepares to fully resume its emergency department at Mercy Hospital, the emergency services at the Mercy Ambulatory Care Center in orchard park have temporarily closed.

Monday night, union members voted 96 percent in favor on a four-year contract.

The deal lays out exactly how many patients a nurse can have during a shift. CWA says it’s not common for these contracts to include concrete staffing ratios and they expect nurses at other hospitals will fight for it too.

“I think we’re going to see a domino effect. I think you’re going to see healthcare in Buffalo and Western New York improve,” said Jackie Ettipio who’s the CWA 1133 President. “We just tipped the first domino and I think it’s just going to go crazy throughout the unites states because I believe healthcare throughout the United States needs to change and I think that our members are the breaking point for it but I also think our community was too.”

Kaleida Health’s contract with CWA expires May of 2022.

“It’s premature to speculate at this time. Our contract does not expire until May 31, 2022. We look forward to sitting down with our labor partners and negotiating in good faith in the coming months to get a new contract next year. Right now, we are focused on fighting COVID-19 and delivering the very best patient care for this community.”

Michael P. Hughes, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at Kaleida Health

CWA and Catholic Health plan to work with each other to hire hundreds of nurses and other staff members to meet staffing requirements. It’s stated in the contract that the ratios set by CWA and Catholic Health must be in place by January 1st of 2023.

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

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