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"Honk Your Horn For Patient Care" St. Catherine Nurses Host Informational Picket

By p.biancaniello

Registered Nurses(RN’s) at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center went to the picket line today. The RN’s were joined by members of the Communication Workers of America to spread their message that they have been without a contract for over a year. They are the lowest paid nurses on Long Island and practices currently being enforced at the hospital are taking the RN’s away from their patients and jeopardizing the quality of health care offered at the facility.

New York State Nurses Association(NYSNA) representative Michael Chacon called on the hospital administration and Catholic Health Services of Long Island to listen to the issues and to correct them.  According to Mr. Chacon, who is a resident of Smithtown, too many nurses are getting their early experience at St. Catherine’s and leaving as soon as they can for better paying positions at other hospitals on Long Island. The nurses, short staffed already, are being asked to answer phones, fill-in for technicians, transport patients, fill-in for custodial people, and take care of patients.

Nurses continuously rank at the top of professional lists with the highest integrity, honesty and ethics. According to Michael they are being asked to do more and more at the expense of patient care. When asked if they want better compensation the answer is a resounding “yes”, but there is so much more. They want to take care of their patients as the professional people they are. Staffing standards have been in place for over 17 years; but, according to Chacon, today’s patients are much different and more complex than those of 1999. In addition, in 1999, nurses were not expected to do all the non-nursing work they are being required to do in 2016. 

Negotiations and protests are not exclusive to St. Catherine’s, other community hospitals experiencing the same issues are St. Charles and St. Joseph both members of Catholic Health Services. 

Today’s protesters walked on 25A in front of the hospital. Cars lined the road to the north and to the south of St. Catherine’s and RN’s walked down the hill from the hospital giving up their breaks and lunch time to send out their message. The nurses were not alone as car after car passing the protesters responded to the picket signs that challenged people to honk their horns if they supported nurses. 

Michael Gendron is no stranger to the plight of workers. A Communication Workers of America (CWA) union representative, Gendron rallied the nurses and offered the support of CWA. Gendron thanked the nurses for the support they have shown to the striking Verizon workers. 

The spirit of the informational picketers was both enthusiastic and determined. The men and women marching were determined to let those seeing the protest know that adequate staffing, recruitment and retainment means better patient care. 

Mr. Chacon said in addition to a contract, NYSNA wants legislation to ensure adequate staffing:patient ratios, an idea that has not received much support from NYS Senator Flanagan or Assemblyman Fitzpatrick. He acknowledged that it will be a challenge to get their support, but is not giving up. Nurses have the support of the patients said Chacon, “because they trust nurses to do the right thing.”

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