Albany Medical Center nurses strike

Nurses at Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center began striking Dec. 1 over working conditions at the facility, according to the union that represents them

The New York State Nurses Association, which represents about 2,000 nurses at the hospital, alleges improvements in staffing and infection control standards are needed at the medical center and that staffers have left due to working conditions. Union members specifically cite issues related to COVID-19, claiming that nurses are forced to reuse N95 masks up to 20 times on many different people and that patients who do not have the virus are sometimes comingled with those who do, allowing COVID-19 to spread.

The union also filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration against the medical center Nov. 30 alleging the hospital is not providing nurses with suitable respiratory protection.

"We believe that these practices create an immediate threat of harm to nurses and patients and should be immediately remedied," the union said in a news release Nov. 30. "Albany Med must address their health and safety concerns and settle a fair contract that protects patients and nurses."

The union and Albany Medical Center have been negotiating a contract since 2018.  

Hospital President and CEO Dennis McKenna, MD, said Nov. 20 that the hospital has negotiated in good faith and offered the union a contract that it views as fair. The hospital is preparing to continue care during the strike and hired temporary nurses to replace striking ones, hospital officials said.

"Before and through the coronavirus pandemic, Albany Med has made every effort to ensure the safety of our patients and workforce — from adequate supplies of personal protective equipment to necessary staffing levels," said Dr. McKenna.

In a statement provided to The Daily Gazette, in response to the OSHA complaint, the hospital again defended its PPE practices, saying that "safe reprocessing of PPE follows state and federal guidance and is only one part of our strategy to ensure an adequate supply."

The strike is set to end at 7 a.m. Dec. 2.


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