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Mercy Hospital suspends key services in preparation for strike

Ambulances to be diverted beginning Wednesday, and inpatient elective surgeries suspended
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Posted at 2:24 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 23:20:58-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — With a strike at mercy hospital imminent Catholic Health is making changes to several services in preparation.

Late Tuesday night Catholic Health announced labor and delivery services will be suspended, starting 7 AM Wednesday. Elective inpatient surgeries will also be suspended. And there will be a temporary diversion to incoming ambulances. Mercy Hospital said its emergency department will still be open to walk-in patients.

“It’s always a concern when there’s anything that has services in a hospital that we depend on, the whole community depends on,” West Seneca Town Supervisor Gary Dickson said.

Negotiations between the union and Catholic Health to avoid a potential strike are ongoing. Catholic Health said it remains hopeful that a solution will be reached:

Mercy hospital, as well as Kenmore Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus continue to negotiate in good faith with CWA for 12-plus hours daily to reach a fair contract with market-competitive wages and benefits. With CWA Local 1133's strike at Mercy Hospital only days away and the parties tens of millions of dollars apart, the hospital has begun implementing additional steps to prepare for the union's strike.

“We don’t want to strike, we want to take care of our patients, but at this point we see no other options,” ITA at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo Cheryl Darling said.

One reason for the potential strike is staffing levels. In a statement CWA said:

The bargaining committee met until 11:00 PM on Monday night, and while there have been some productive conversations around wages, Catholic Health has yet to put forth a proposal and continues to refuse to introduce safe staffing ratios. Nurses in the cardiovascular ICU -- one of the most stressful and urgent units dealing with patients with cardiac events -- regularly have staffing ratios of 1 nurse to 3 patients. This is incredibly dangerous, and they fear for patient deaths every day because they do not have the capacity to be constantly monitoring each patient with a ratio that high.

“We’re at the point where too many lives are in danger, where it’s literally a crisis situation,” RN at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo Jackie Ettipio said.

The CWA said in a statement that diverting ambulances from one understaffed hospital to another won’t solve the hospital's staffing crisis.

“We can just hope they come to a resolution quickly,” Dickson said.

Healthcare workers also said supply shortages are pushing them to the brink. They said they don’t have enough urinals, sheets, blankets, washcloths, thermometers, urine tubes, blood tubes and syringes to do their jobs.

“And that’s just a few, we could go on and on, there are pages and pages,” Ettipio said.

Negotiations will continue until Friday, that’s when the strike will begin if an agreement is not reached. The strike will last at least seven days.