VALHALLA, N.Y. – Nurses at Westchester Medical Center gathered in the rain outside the medical center Thursday to voice their concerns about the possible layoff of hundreds of nurses and other hospital workers and the effect cutbacks could have on the well-being of future patients.
“We’re already working harder, with less staff,” said Sam Caquias, president of the local bargaining unit for the New York State Nurses Association.
Caquias, a registered nurse in the center’s trauma center, spoke in a gathering outside of the medical center, which was prompted by the hospital's announcement that there could be a 19% cut in direct nursing staff. That cut would eliminate approximately 250 nursing positions, according to a statement released by the New York State Nurses Association. The Journal News reported Thursday that 620 hospital workers could be laid off if the hospital and unions can't reach an agreement.
“They did mention that they had a hammer, I expect that this is that hammer they said they were going to use,” Caquias said. “It’s not a hammer towards the nurses though, it’s a hammer on the patients,”
Caquias said that the nursing staff was already down from staff cuts made in 2003-04. According to Caquias, there were about 1500 nurses on staff at that time and there are currently less than 1300 nurses on staff.
Caquias and the union said that they are still in ongoing negotiations but that the medical center is asking for several areas of their contract to be cut, such as pension and health care.
Jules Hatzel, RN and the local bargaining unit’s grievance chair, echoed Caquias thoughts that these cuts will severely affect the future quality of the medical center.
“These layoffs will severely impact the safety and delivery of quality care not only in Westchester, but for the entire Hudson Valley area,” Hatzel said in a statement. “This will not be ‘World Class Medicine.’”
Westchester Medical Center is one of the only Level 1 trauma center in the Hudson Valley between New York City and Albany and is the only burn center between New York City and the Canadian border.
Messages left with representatives from the Westchester Medical Center were not returned.