Nurses raise patient safety concerns as our state is facing a critical staffing crisis
At an informational picket on Thursday at Llanfair House Care & Rehabilitation Center unionized nurses protested the lack of progress in contract negotiations that have been going on for months.
Members of HPAE Local 5107, registered nurses and licensed professional nurses, have been working at the 185-bed long-term care facility without a contract since September 2022, Lorri Bowlby, who has worked at the facility since 1980, said. She identifies lack of staff to care for residents as the main issue, followed by pay and a general callousness in the way the employer deals with workers.
Respect must be a two-way street, HPAE President Debbie White, RN, said at a news conference during the informational picket.
“These healthcare workers have shown their commitment to the owners and residents of this facility by risking their lives to care for them during the pandemic,” White said. “One way Windsor Health, which owns Llanfair House, can show its commitment to these workers is by giving them a fair contract, providing adequate staffing in the facility, and listening to their nursing staff. It can save lives.”
The staff, Bowlby said, is still reeling from the shock of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Dozens of the facility’s staff became sickened with the virus that causes COVID-19 and one worker died from complications from the disease. Many are still suffering from the after-effects of “long COVID,” she said.
Bowlby said all the workers want is a fair contract.
“We sacrificed a lot. Some of us even got COVID and almost died from COVID. But, now that we’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s only fair that we receive a fair contract from our employer. But they refuse to give us a fair contract,” Bowlby said.
White said the findings in a recent multi-phase statewide survey that HPAE undertook to better understand the experiences, challenges, and needs of nurses in these unprecedented times should be a wake-up call to healthcare corporations like Windsor Health.
“We confirmed that overworked and poorly compensated New Jersey nurses are leaving the profession in droves, saying hospital safety is on the decline,” White said.
Windsor Health has not taken the issue of staffing at the facility seriously, but HPAE has filed charges against the owners after they made unilateral changes to benefits like health insurance, Abdul Umoru, President of HPAE Local 5107, said.
“Why wouldn’t Windsor Health discuss with us pressing issues in this facility so we can begin to solve the problems that the staff has been alerting them about day-in, day-out?” he asked. “For instance, and crucially, the staffing crisis at this facility. Why Wouldn’t Windsor Health provide enough staff to this facility that so many families in our community depend on?”
“They simply refuse to acknowledge our sacrifices and contributions,” Bowlby said. “They are not really proposing anything at the table except to show us what little value we have to them.”
For more information, contact: Michael Allen, (646) 436-7556