Health care workers go on strike, demand protection against virus

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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (NewsNation Now) — Swapping the front lines for picket lines, health care workers are taking a stand at medical facilities across the country.

The common themes: contracts are up, staffing is short and personal protective equipment is less than what nurses and certified medical assistants say they need to protect themselves while caring for patients in the middle of a pandemic.

Two facilities faced walkouts in New York state on Monday — one in the capital, Albany; the other in New Rochelle, once considered ground zero in the New York City area’s battle with COVID-19.

Nurses at Montefiore Hospital plan two 12-hour walkouts this week to highlight their concerns. 

The facility moved patients to other locations a day earlier citing safety concerns, while issuing a scathing statement about the actions of the New York State Nurses Association.

“NYSNA,” the company said, “is willfully misleading the public by suggesting that Montefiore New Rochelle is unprepared for the latest COVID-19 surge, when the truth is, in compliance with the Governor’s orders, MNR is stocked with 90 days of PPE for its employees. NYSNA is selfishly putting the community at risk and using COVID-19 as a political football.”

They are words that anger the nurses on the picket line, who remember how hard they fought the first wave of the coronavirus, when their facility became one of the first in the country to be locked down.

One nurse died; several others became ill.

Now, they say, with the infection rate rising again, they’re asking for help which has yet to materialize. They’ve also been without a contract for nearly two years.

“We can’t take it anymore,“ RN Kathy Santoiemma told NewsNation. “We really need a voice as nurses for our patients. We’re striking for our patients.”

Similar scenes are unfolding at other medical facilities around the U.S. over the same issues.

In Chicago, 700 nursing home workers have been on picket lines for over a week, demanding a new contract. They haven’t had one since June. They also want hazard pay for working during the pandemic.

“Our Infinity nursing home workers are fighting for a fair contract that sets a $15 starting wage,” said Greg Kelley, local president of the Service Employees International Union. 

Workers in Illinois would also like better-quality PPE and more of it, along with better staffing, as that state continues to struggle with rising COVID-19 numbers.

They, like their counterparts in New York, insist they’re fighting not for themselves, but for the health of their patients — setting-up a virtual reunion between a nursing home resident and a caregiver to make their point.

The resident, identified only as ‘Jay,’ expressed her desire for the strike to end soon.

“If I could physically take my check out of the owner’s hands and put it in the arms of the CMAs and the nurses, I so would,” she said. “They deserve it.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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