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As A June 30th Contract Expiration Date Looms, Union-Represented Kaleida Health Workers ‘Raise Concerns’ About What They Describe As ‘Severe’ Understaffing That Is ‘Endangering Patient Care’

Also, In A New Survey, An Overwhelming 97% Of Kaleida’s CWA & 1199 SEIU-Represented Workers Say The System ‘Can’t Retain’ Employees As The ‘Understaffing & Lack Of Resources Are Creating Unsafe Conditions’

Published Tuesday, June 14, 2022
by CWA Local 1168/1199 SEIU News
As A June 30th Contract Expiration Date Looms, Union-Represented Kaleida Health Workers ‘Raise Concerns’ About What They Describe As ‘Severe’ Understaffing That Is ‘Endangering Patient Care’

(BUFFALO, NEW YORK) - Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1168 and 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) United Healthcare Workers East on Tuesday (June 14th) released a new joint survey of Nurses, Therapists, Technologists, Clerical Staff and other Professional and Service Workers employed at Buffalo’s Kaleida Health, which shows widespread concerns around working conditions caused by understaffing inside the multi-tiered hospital system.

The current Union contract, which was set to expire on May 31st, was extended to June 30th as negotiations for the new contract continue, the Union said.

Kaleida currently has more than 1,000 unfilled positions and Workers are raising concerns about their own safety - as well as the safety of their patients.

They are demanding critical changes that will allow the hospital to attract and retain Staff to improve the quality of care.

Survey results reveal an overwhelming majority of Kaleida Staff are concerned about the hospital’s failure to retain Employees as they struggle to provide care with a shrinking workforce and dwindling clinical supplies.

Out of nearly 900 Workers surveyed, 97% say that Kaleida is having trouble retaining Employees.

Almost 90% cite concerns around quality care as the key factor in why the Staff is leaving, while 72% say it is the result of poor working conditions. 

Workers overwhelmingly agree Kaleida is failing to adequately invest in a positive, safe environment for both patients and Staff: 70% of Workers surveyed have considered quitting their job, with 60% of those Workers citing understaffing as the reason and 40% citing a lack of respect from management; Nearly 30% of Workers surveyed report that they have experienced violence at work from patients or visitors at least once in the past year.  They say additional Health Care Staff is needed to provide timely quality care to frustrated patients and a lack of Security Staff to ensure a safe working environment; Nearly 70% of Workers say they don’t have the equipment or supplies needed to deliver adequate care to their patients; Kaleida Staff also reports feeling defeated and disrespected by the hospital’s leadership when the current Union contract is violated; and After raising concerns and proposing solutions for months without adequate response, Workers are demanding stronger grievance procedures and problem-solving mechanisms in their new contract.

“Staffing shortages at Kaleida are pushing Workers to exhaustion and compromising care for patients,” CWA Local 1168 President Cori Gambini, a Registered Nurse, said. “Long before the pandemic, Kaleida carried out devastating cuts to Staff in all departments.  This poor decision-making led us where we are today, in the midst of a nationwide health care shortage with a dangerous lack of Staff.  We need Kaleida to invest in Staff and address the issues in the hospital immediately.”

1199 SEIU Vice-President Jim Scordato said: “Before the pandemic Kaleida cut Patient Care Assistants (PCA) and Certified Medical Assistants (CMA) that were critical to care for sick patients, leaving our PCA’s at Buffalo General and Millard Fillmore Suburban forced to care for triple the amount of patients.  For months we have been working to come to an agreement on better staffing ratios as laid out in the new staffing legislation, but for areas not covered by the legislation, we will use our Collective Bargaining Agreement to move to a more acceptable level - a ratio that is safe and fair for everyone.  It’s up to Kaleida to work to fill vacant positions and meet the ratios that we agree is fair for patients and Staff.”

Severe understaffing throughout the hospital is driving a quality care crisis for patients, Union Officials said.  Workers report patients are being forced to wait for hours before being visited by a Care Provider and as Health Care Professionals, they are devastated by the knowledge that they may not be able to uphold their values by giving patients the care they deserve, they added.

In addition, Workers report troubling shortages of materials that are critical for patient care.

Based on bargaining so far, CWA and 1199 SEIU Representatives both feel confident Kaleida executives understand their Employees’ concerns and will come to the table ready to meet their demands for the good of the entire hospital system.

Both sides return to bargaining Tuesday and will continue to bargain three days per week, Union Officials said. 

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