Staffing Fight at Niagara Falls MemorialOctober 27, 2020
Dozens of workers at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center (NFMMC) in Niagara Falls, NY held an informational picket Sept. 30 to call attention to short staffing at the institution that they say has grown so bad that it’s endangering patient care and taking a severe emotional toll on caregivers.
NFMMC RNs say they are working so short that nurses are being inappropriately assigned to areas outside their scope of practice. Despite workers’ sacrifices throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and consistent cooperation, NFMMC management has been unresponsive.
“It’s really bad on every floor,” says Jennifer Smith, an ICU RN at Memorial for 12 years. “Just the other day I had six patients and I was trying to train two new hires right out of nursing school. On the cardiac floor recently, for part one shift, the hospital had 19 patients to one nurse. On most days I can’t even remember if I had lunch or a break.”
Members have been keeping the pressure on with sticker days and petitions. Delegates and organizers say filing charges with the NYS Labor Board has been a near-daily part of organizers’ routine.
“This isn’t about sending messages or pizzas. They need to be out here talking to workers and, if they have to, take some flack. That’s how it is,” says 1199 delegate Evelyn Harris, a patient care assistant in Memorial’s Emergency Department.
Low wages and the prevalence of part-time positions without benefits have made staff retention difficult. Members say that change would benefit Memorial and Niagara County, which has been buffeted by massive job losses and climbing poverty rates.
“Not being able to give hands-on care and do all I can for my patients fractures me to my soul,” says Harris, who has worked at the institution for 43 years.