‘Strike Or No Strike,’ CWA-Represented Critical Care RN Tina Knop ‘Will No Longer Work At’ Catholic Health’s South Buffalo Mercy Hospital - Nurse ‘Tearfully Shares What Staffing Problems Are Doing To Hospital Caregivers & Patients’
(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) – As the Communications Workers of America (CWA) served the Catholic Health System with a 10-day notice to Strike South Buffalo’s Mercy Hospital last week, one Caregiver - Registered Nurse Tina Knop, tearfully shared what Critical Care Nurses face with major staffing problems within the hospital system that has brought her to a painfully personal, and public, decision to give notice and leave her job.
“In critical care, (the staffing ratio) ‘should be one Nurse to one or two’ patients. During the past eighteen months, I’ve seen (a) ‘one-to-three’ patient ratio. During COVID, it’s been ‘one’ Nurse to ‘four to five’ patients, with a helper. This is ‘so unsafe,’” Knop (pictured above) - a Registered Nurse (RN) at Mercy Hospital, who’s employed in its Intensive Care Unit (ICU), said during a CWA News Conference held via Zoom late last week. “(During the) last six weeks in ICU (the Intensive Care Unit), six Nurses ‘have put in their notices (that they are leaving) - myself included.’”
Her voice breaking, Knop – who’s spent nearly the last 10 years working in ICUs, continued: “I ‘can no longer do it.’ ‘I cannot work under these conditions.’ We have a ‘passion for what we do, but what price does Catholic Health put on our patients’ lives?’”
Knop’s powerful comments were made before it was made public that Catholic Health had made arrangements to hire replacement Workers should the CWA-represented Workforce go out on Strike on October 1st. Negotiations are continuing on a new contract, which was extended for one year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The agreement expires on September 30th.
Rubbing salt into the wound, The Buffalo News reported the positions Catholic Health may fill offer pay ranging up to $110 per hour (for some RN roles) for qualified candidates, with a 60-hour deployment guarantee.
CWA District One Area Director Deb Hayes, an RN herself, issued a statement in reaction to Catholic Health’s willingness to pay temporary, traveling Workers much higher wages than it pays its Union-represented Employees if the CWA’s nearly 2,000 Members do in fact Strike if a contract is not reached:
“Our Members, Registered Nurses, Service, Technical and Clerical Workers, have put their lives on the line to care for our community during this deadly pandemic. We made the painful decision to strike if a common sense and fair Union contract is not reached because we are at our breaking point and Catholic Health is refusing to bring our pay and benefits up to standards that allow us to retain Staff and compete in a tight job market. We always knew it didn’t add up when Catholic Health said it couldn’t afford to treat us fairly and it is beyond insulting to learn that Catholic Health will happily pay Workers who aren’t even from our community wages well above what we’re asking for. This is a slap in the face to current Employees who make far less than what your hospital is offering to pay temporary Workers. If we are your pandemic heroes, why are you willing to pay this much rather than address our deteriorating staffing ratios and make investments in your own Employees?”
On the day of the CWA news conference, the Union also made public results of a survey of more than 500 Health Care Workers employed across three Catholic Health hospitals in the Buffalo area: Nearly 98% of Catholic Health's Workers reported their hospitals were having trouble retaining Staff; More than 50% report they have been forced to do work they were not trained for due to understaffing; and more than 90% say that Catholic Health has failed to take adequate measures to solve understaffing.
In addition, more than 70% reported that their hospital lacked the equipment and supplies they needed to adequately perform their roles, listing things like PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), vials, cleaning supplies, blood pressure cuffs, bath blankets and more as being consistently low in supply.
Critical Care RN Knop went on to say during the news conference:
“I’ve been the ‘rock’ for families ‘who’ve gone through difficult times, seen miracles and witnessed more sadness than any one person should.’ ‘At one time I was proud to say where I worked - I cannot longer use those words.’ The last several months ‘have made me rethink’ my career path. ‘A much larger crisis is happening within the walls of South Buffalo Mercy.’ Nurses and Aides are ‘burned out.’ ‘We’re tired and we have been asking for help (Catholic Health) for a long time.’ ‘Despite our pleas, we work grossly understaffed with serious supply issues’ - from a swab to a ‘life-saving’ medication. ‘We continue to put forth our best efforts.’ In critical care ‘there should be one Nurse to one or two patients.’ During past eighteen months, I’ve seen a ‘one to three’ patient ratio. During COVID, ‘one’ Nurse ‘to four to five’ patients, with a helper. ‘This is so unsafe.’ ‘Patients are left in their own waste for unreasonable lengths of time, in their own urine and feces - asking for help, but you don’t have someone to help you clean them.’ ‘It’s taken a mental toll to the point Nurses are leaving the bedside in droves.’ Patients ‘have removed their own life-saving equipment and you cannot tend to them in a timely manner.’ You need to put on your mask and PPE ‘and you cannot get to them in time.’ All these instances are ‘one-hundred-percent avoidable if you have (the health care professionals) available to save these patients.’ ‘There is not a shortage of Nurses, I want to be clear with that.’ ‘There is a shortage of Nurses willing to work under these conditions and under these unsafe ratios.’ (During the) last six weeks in ICU, six Nurses ‘have put in their notices (that they are leaving) - myself included.’ ‘I can no longer do it.’ ‘I cannot work under these conditions.’ ‘We have a passion for what we do, but what price does Catholic Health put on our patients’ lives.’ ‘What is your loved one worth?’”
To Watch The CWA News Conference, Go To: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHXjUtAmOQU
To Read The CWA Survey, Go To: www.safestaffingbuffalo.org/system/files/cwa_catholic_health_staffing_and_working_conditions_survey_slidedeck.pdf
And For More On This Labor News Story, Read WNYLaborToday.com’s September 21st Labor News Story, Headlined: CWA-Represented Workers At Catholic Health’s Mercy Hospital In South Buffalo Set October 1st Strike Date As ‘Staffing Crisis Reaches Breaking Point’