An Open Letter to Our Patients and the Buffalo Community

To our patients and the Buffalo community,

We are the healthcare workers at Mercy Hospital. We are the people who save lives. We make sure patients are fed and get the medicines they need, keep rooms clean with fresh linens and towels, help patients bathe and use the bathroom, and administer and run critical tests. 

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we sacrificed our own health and well-being to provide critical care to the people of Western New York. The work was traumatic and exhausting, but we continued doing it every day because we care about our community and our life’s mission is to give you, our patients, the attention and care you deserve. 

We have made the extremely difficult decision to go on strike because Catholic Health has made it impossible for us to provide this care and attention. We want you to hear from us directly about what brought us to this breaking point.

Our hospital, and the hospitals throughout the Catholic Health System, are dangerously understaffed. Every day, we are terrified of needless patient deaths in our hospital because we are stretched so thin. We have bargained for months to achieve a contract agreement that will allow us to do our jobs properly, but Catholic Health stubbornly refuses to agree to iron-clad safe staffing levels that will ensure your safety. We have concluded that only a strike will make Catholic Health understand that we must have guaranteed increased staff and improved compensation if we hope to provide the quality of care our community deserves. 

Last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed everybody, we were negotiating with Catholic Health for a new contract. We chose to postpone talks and extend our contract in light of the emerging crisis. We worked around the clock during Buffalo’s darkest times. Now, the staffing shortage has only gotten worse, and Catholic Health has failed to address the crisis that has emerged at our hospitals. 

Catholic Health watched as we suffered through the trauma and burnout of this crisis and as too many of us became sick and succumbed to the virus. Scores of our colleagues left in frustration or because they found better wages and working conditions at other hospitals. Catholic Health can’t retain staff because our wages and benefits aren’t competitive in the region. But instead of agreeing to a fair contract that will attract and retain desperately needed new staff, Catholic Health wants to cut our health benefits, keep our wages stagnant, and force us to continue working in dangerously understaffed conditions. Hundreds of service and technical workers, the people who make hospitals run, make $15 an hour or less, while Catholic Health executives make millions off our backs. 

Catholic Health says we are unreasonable to insist on safe staffing ratios and quality patient care. But as healthcare workers, there is no alternative for us. It is our duty and ethical obligation to stand up for our patients. 

Catholic Health has put us in an impossible position. The last thing we want is to see care disrupted. We ask the Buffalo community to join us in urging Catholic Health to agree to a contract that puts patient care first and gets us back to work serving you. 

 

Sincerely,

Mercy Hospital Healthcare Workers