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Vigil at Vassar Brothers Medical Center: NYSNA Nurses and 1199SEIU Technologists, Technicians, and Healthcare Workers are Standing Up for Patients; Say Enough to Understaffing

New employer policy with penalties for sick days adds to burden

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY: NYSNA registered nurses and 1199SEIU technologists, technicians and healthcare workers at Vassar Brothers Medical Center (VBMC) held a vigil Wednesday evening to call attention to staffing shortfalls and a new employer policy that would allow management, with little consideration of union contracts, to penalize employees for taking sick days. Nurses and hospital employees say in virtually every area of the hospital they are working without enough staff, their ranks stretched thin.

Protests of Assignment, where nurses formally object to working conditions, often citing staffing shortfalls, have more than doubled at the hospital.

Even as the nurses and the entire staff have to carry out more work on a daily basis, employees say VBMC management has created a new “Dependability Policy” that punishes them when they are ill and need a sick day off. This new policy does not address the underlying problem, lack of staff to meet the increased census, but rather penalizes employees for getting sick when they are exhausted beyond human limits.

“Inadequate staffing throughout the hospital, working to exhaustion—these conditions show that management has little regard for its employees and the community they serve,” said Rose Decker, RN.

1199SEIU member Sheila Ennist, a Patient Care Tech in the pediatric unit said, “I love my job and my patients and I want the hospital to do well, but this new policy isn’t good for anyone. It’s not good for the staff and it certainly isn’t good for our patients when we are stressed.”

“We go above and beyond every day to give our patients the care they deserve. Instead of recognizing our contribution, VBMC chooses to be punitive,” said Cyndi Sexton, RN.

Ron Breau, a Vascular Cath Lab tech and 1199SEIU member for decades said, “I’m concerned the hospital is setting up its own emergency situation. We are working until exhaustion, until we become ill, and now this policy would penalize us for getting sick. And the penalties are so extreme as to ignore the disciplinary procedures that are in our contract. This has to stop for the health of the staff and the entire community.”


The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 37,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit our website at

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest and fastest-growing healthcare union in America. We represent over 400,000 nurses and caregivers throughout Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Florida. Our mission is to achieve quality care and good jobs for all. For more information:

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