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Locking Out Nurses During COVID-19

Following a one-day strike, the nurses were replaced and locked out until the end of the week

Brian Young's picture
Dec 02, 2020

Facing rising cases of COVID-19, nurses at Albany Med held a one-day strike on Tuesday. As part of their strike, the nurses were calling on the hospital to address PPE concerns as well as patient safety concerns. With hospitals across the country struggling to fill nursing shifts, and some states like North Dakota telling sick nurses to come into work, it would seem like the hospital would want to get the nurses back to work as soon as possible. Yet on Wednesday, the nurses found out that they were being locked out as punishment for their strike.

According to the nurses, issues with the hospital began long before COVID. They have been working without a contract for two years and hundreds of hospital staff, including 500 nurses, have left due to deteriorating hospital conditions. One nurse described the hospital as “coming apart at the seams.”

Since COVID, the nurses allege that they are being asked to reuse single-use masks up to 20 times, including using them on many different patients. New York State requires hospitals to have a 90-day supply of masks and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says masks should only be re-worn if the facility does not have a 90-day supply. So the hospital is either lying about their supply of masks and violating state law or they are putting their nurses at an unneeded risk by forcing them to reuse their masks. The nurses also alleged that the hospital is moving patients without getting back COVID test results, potentially spreading infection from COVID positive patients to parts of the hospital that are free of the disease. Due to this negligence, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) has filed a complaint with OSHA for not protecting their workforce.

In response to the strike, the hospital refused to make any changes and instead hired scabs to cover the shifts until the end of the week, even though the union told the hospital that this would only be a one day strike. This means that nurses will be locked out until Friday, December 4th, and will miss three extra days of pay on top of the one lost for going on strike. In a statement on Facebook, NYSNA said that Albany Med’s behavior is “shameful and heartbreaking.” They vowed to continue fighting for the respect and dignity that the nurses deserve.

Nurses in Albany aren’t the only NYSNA members on strike. As UCOMM reported yesterday, nurses in New Rochelle NY continue their two-day strike at Montefiore. There is no word at this time whether Montefiore nurses will be locked out on Thursday when they attempt to return to work, although the union did say in a statement that the hospital had failed to bring in enough staff to care for patients during the strike.

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