Gillibrand calls on CMH to resolve its staffing crisis
Raymond Pignone is reporting for Columbia-Greene Media the chronic staffing shortages plaguing Columbia Memorial Health in Hudson have caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand has called upon the CMH administration to work with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East to address the staffing issues impacting the hospital. The New York Democrat sent a letter urging administrators to offer union workers “fair and equitable compensation and benefits” comparable to other hospitals in the region. In a statement released August 18, Gillibrand said Columbia Memorial Health’s unwillingness to provide equitable compensation for workers has led to the health care network losing valuable employees to other hospitals, leaving Columbia and Greene counties with shrinking access to medical care. “As the only hospital between Kingston and Albany, Columbia Memorial Health staff serve more than 100,000 residents in a health care desert spanning Columbia, Greene and Dutchess counties,” Gillibrand wrote. She said the health center is operating with a staff vacancy rate of more than 200 bargaining unit members. CMH spokesperson Bill Van Slyke called the senator’s statements unfortunate, misleading and inaccurate. “The real challenges to health care are very well documented, but we very much welcome the senator’s interest in this matter because much can be done at the federal level to address the core factors coming to bear here,” Van Slyke said. Vacancy issues at Columbia Memorial Health have persisted after negotiations in May when technicians, licensed practical nurses and janitorial staff were excluded from the talks. Union communications director Mindy Berman said Gillibrand’s letter speaks for itself and defended it as “pretty comprehensive.” Emergency room technician Sarah Jordan said her department is struggling with staff shortages that cause them to hold patients in hallways or transfer them to other hospitals. Jordan was one of eight union employees to meet with Gillibrand and discuss the issues. VanSlyke addressed the comments made by the union in a statement put out Friday. He said the primary issue is a real and pre-existing shortage of health care workers exacerbated by the pandemic, which is what policymakers need to focus on. Read the full story at HudsonValley360 [dot] com.