CVPH nurses authorize strike

PLATTSBURGH, NY (WCAX) – After two years of negotiating, nurses at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital have voted to strike if their union and the Plattsburgh hospital can’t agree on a contract.

Bobby Jo Otis, a member of the New York State Nurses Association and CVPH co-chair, says nurses at CVPH have made their requests for a new contract clear over the last two years. “Some practice is not safe and not right for us to have to continue under these circumstances that CVPH has put us through,” she said.

The union wants the hospital to hire more nurses as well as more clerical staff to answer phones and help with paperwork. They want better health insurance and better wages. The union put the strike question to membership Wednesday and 92% percent were in favor. “It will throw a wrench in the systems at CVPH — and again — it’s not what we want, we want a contract,” said Otis. She says if the union was to strike it would slow a lot of things down at the hospital and leave doctors without help.”This is literally sitting on CVPH’s doorstep. This is up to Michelle LeBeau and the executives at CVPH to do what they say they are going to do.”

LeBeau, the president of CVPH and Alice Hyde Hospital in Malone, sent a statement saying she hopes the hospital can come to an agreement with the NYSNA bargaining team. She says the biggest barrier to reaching an agreement is health insurance. She says nurses want to remain on a 100% employer-funded plan indefinitely, but the hospital wants to transition nurses to the UVM Health Network insurance, which offers several employees different plans.

The nurses say they want to see the UVM Health Network tap into its $1.1 billion reserve fund to help with negotiation requests. “Money seems to be going across the pond but it’s not coming back to hospitals back here,” said Chris Swiesz, a union member.

Nurses say the hospital is spending millions on travel nurses — with over 120 at CVPH alone — when they could be using that money to pay and retain local nurses. “It isn’t the money. It’s retaining, recruiting, being able to have the numbers at the bedside to provide this community with the care it deserves,” said Liz Craigmylerner, a union member.

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