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CWA sets October 1 strike date, Catholic Health says Mercy Hospital will remain open

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Posted at 9:15 PM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 21:15:06-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Communications Workers of America Local 1133 has set October 1 as the date health care workers at Mercy Hospital will go on strike if a contract settlement is not reached between the union and Catholic Health.

The union said the workers are "taking action to stand up for patients in Buffalo because Catholic Health is refusing to settle a fair contract that will allow the hospital system to attract and retain the workers needed to provide care to the community."

CWA Local 1133 said a survey of more than 500 health care workers at Kenmore Mercy, Mercy and St. Joseph's hospitals revealed the following:

  • 70% of respondents say they have seen patients be neglected or suffer needlessly because of staffing shortages.
  • 10% say patients are receiving the quality care they need.
  • 98% say their hospital is struggling to retain staff, and the vast majority cite concerns over care quality, staffing shortages, low pay, poor working conditions and Catholic Health’s refusal to settle a fair contract as the reasons for turnover.
  • Over 50% say they have been forced to do work they were not trained for due to understaffing.
  • Over 90% say that Catholic Health has failed to take adequate measures to solve understaffing.
  • Over 70% reported that their hospital lacked the equipment and supplies they needed to adequately perform their roles.
    1. Respondents listed PPE, vials, cleaning supplies, blood pressure cuffs, bath blankets and more as being consistently low in supply.

CWA Local 1133 will hold a virtual press conference Tuesday at 12:00 p.m.

In response to the setting of the strike date, Catholic Health released a statement which said in part:

“It is inconceivable that the union would lead essential healthcare workers on strike in the midst of an ongoing pandemic,” said Eddie Bratko, president of Mercy Hospital. “I want to assure our community that our top priority is the welfare and safety of our patients, and our hospital will remain open and operational during a strike to continue providing safe, high quality care.”

Catholic Health said the hospital has developed a "comprehensive strike contingency plan to ensure patients’ and the community’s healthcare needs are met during the union’s strike," which includes contracting with a professional staffing agency.

"The agency will provide fully licensed, highly experienced, vaccinated temporary replacement nurses and other qualified staff to provide uninterrupted care and service for the duration of the strike," according to a release.

Catholic Health announced Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo and Sisters of Charity Hospital/St. Joseph Campus filed unfair labor practice charges against the Communications Workers of America on September 2.