Catholic Health to resume services after labor deals approved

About 2,500 registered nurses and service, technical and clerical staff at Buffalo, N.Y.-based Catholic Health have ratified new four-year contracts after a five-week strike, according to union and health system statements.

The six contracts, which are retroactively effective July 1, cover workers represented by the Communications Workers of America at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Kenmore (N.Y.) Mercy Hospital, and Sisters of Charity Hospital-St. Joseph Campus in Buffalo. The contracts include safe staffing provisions and wage increases, as well as health, retirement and paid time off benefits. 

Ninety-four percent of voting workers were in favor of ratifying the contracts, with 6 percent against, according to the union..    

With the ratification of the contracts, about 2,000 workers who were on strike at Mercy Hospital will begin returning to work Nov. 10.

"Going on strike was the hardest thing I've ever done, but my co-workers and I did it because we owed it to our patients," Jennifer Williams, a charge nurse at Mercy Hospital, said in a news release. "We knew that if we stuck together in our union family, it was possible to win a contract that treats both healthcare heroes and our patients fairly."

Amid the labor dispute, Mercy Hospital suspended inpatient nonemergency procedures and paused labor and delivery services. The system on Sept. 29 also began diverting ambulances from Mercy Hospital and its Mercy Ambulatory Care Center in Orchard Park, N.Y.

Now, as Mercy Hospital workers prepare to return to work, Catholic Health said hospital leaders have developed a detailed return-to-work plan that will restore most services at the hospital. Services that will resume during the day shift Nov. 10 include ambulance transport, labor and delivery services, cardiac and stroke services, and off-site primary care and outpatient services. The health system said emergency and urgent surgical cases will continue to be performed as needed while inpatient and outpatient elective surgery are expected to resume soon.

Additionally, emergency services at the Mercy Ambulatory Care Center will temporarily close at 3 p.m. Nov. 9 as the hospital focuses on resuming transport services at its main emergency department. Cardiac rehabilitation services at Mercy Ambulatory Care Centerwill also be temporarily suspended.

"It's a new day for Mercy Hospital as we prepare to welcome back our associates, and for Catholic Health as we refocus our energies on providing the highest quality care and service to the people of Western New York," Mark Sullivan, president and CEO of Catholic Health, said in a news release. "Our collective healing process will take time, but I am confident in the ability of our leadership team and associates to work and heal together, and know we will emerge even stronger than before."

Communications Workers of America began a strike Oct. 1 at Mercy Hospital, and tentative agreements for Catholic Health workers were reached Nov. 4. 

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