Catholic Health hospital halts some surgeries, labor and delivery, as strike date nears

Catholic Health's Mercy Hospital of Buffalo (N.Y.) is suspending inpatient nonemergency procedures and pausing labor and delivery services ahead of a tentative worker strike, NBC affiliate WGRZ reported Sept. 28.

The system will also divert ambulances from its Mercy Ambulatory Care Center in Orchard Park, N.Y. Both facilities will remain open for walk-in patients and those who need emergency care. Mercy Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit also will remain open, according to ABC affiliate WKBW.

Mercy Hospital is in contract negotiations with the Communications Workers of America Local 113, which represents nurses, technologists, clerical staff and other service workers at the hospital. If a contract agreement is not reached, workers said they plan to strike Oct. 1.

Catholic Health told Becker's: "We believe these measures are in the best interest of our patients and community in light of the uncertainty regarding the potential strike, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and a steady increase in the number of COVID patients at Mercy Hospital and throughout our system."

"Our focus is on maintaining safe, high quality care at all our hospitals and limiting disruptions to our patients and their visitors should the union follow through with its strike threat at Mercy Hospital," the system added.

Hospital and union representatives met Sept. 27 and had "some productive conversations around wages," according to an emailed statement from the union. But staffing ratios are still a sticking point in discussions. 

"Diverting ambulances from one understaffed hospital to another won’t solve our staffing crisis. Front-line workers at Catholic Health are pleading with the hospital system to take our concerns seriously and address a staffing crisis that is having a devastating impact on our patients and our community," said Jackie Ettipio, RN, the union's president.

The changes do not affect services at Catholic Health's other four hospitals in New York. It's unclear how long the ambulance diversions and pause on nonemergency surgeries will last, a spokesperson for the system told Becker's.

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