'Do you have no shame?': Albany Med CEO says union truck followed his son to school

The president and CEO of Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center is accusing the union representing nurses at the hospital of trying to intimidate children by having a billboard truck follow his son's bus to school. 

In a video posted on YouTube Dec. 4, Dennis McKenna, MD, said the truck, with his name, picture and phone number on it, drove through his neighborhood one weekend for many hours in a row, and the activity of the truck in the Albany area increased as a strike at the hospital got closer. He contends the truck eventually started showing up at the bus stop of his 10-year-old son and following the school bus his son was on to school.  

"It did this over multiple days. If the goal was to scare and intimidate the children, NYSNA, you did that," said Dr. McKenna, referring to the New York State Nurses Association. "You targeted children, and you scared children. I know this because several children got home those days and told their parents about the truck following them to school. I know a parent who called the company of the truck, and they told her that yes, they were hired by NYSNA to follow my son's bus to school. NYSNA, do you have no shame?" 

The CEO's video comes as the union and hospital are in contract negotiations, and about a week after nurses went on strike Dec. 1.  

The New York State Nurses Association, which represents about 2,000 nurses at Albany Medical Center, acknowledges that the union hired a truck to drive around the Albany area to raise awareness about contract issues. They allege the hospital refuses to protect nurses, their children and their families from COVID-19 with proper personal protective equipment, discuss providing affordable health coverage for workers' families or make efforts to stop staffers from leaving due to working conditions. But the union denied Dr. McKenna's claims that it used the truck to try to intimidate children.

"Let me be clear: The New York State Nurses Association would never follow, harass or intimidate families or children, period. Those accusations are beyond absurd. We spend our lives caring for the community, and it's insulting that Dr. McKenna would even say that," union Executive Director Pat Kane, RN, said in a prepared statement.

"Nurses are in this fight to protect their patients, their families and all the children of this community. The nurses are truly worried about bringing this infection home to their children and spreading it to families in this community every day. We are raising the red flag because Albany Med is not following the proper protocols to protect patients and nurses," Ms. Kane's statement said.

Dr. McKenna has defended the hospital's practices, saying, the hospital has "made every effort to ensure the safety of our patients and workforce — from adequate supplies of personal protective equipment to necessary staffing levels."

No new negotiation dates had been scheduled between the hospital and union as of Dec. 7.  


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