WNY hospital workers worry they can’t keep up with COVID surge

Erie County

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As Western New York deals with a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, health care workers say job cuts within Kaleida health are causing more stress within the hospitals. Union leaders claim staff cuts are to blame.

“We’re getting sick. I’ve had a lot of coworkers that have been sick in the second wave of the pandemic. I mean we are burned out,” said Betty Thompson, a patient care assistant at Fillmore Suburban Hospital.

Thompson works on the COVID-19 unit. She claims she, and other health care workers, have gone from handling five or six patients, to now as many as 30.

“I have worked where I’ve had 30 patients or my coworkers have worked where they’ve 30 patients and you leave out of there in tears because you know that you haven’t done your best,” she said. 

“Every one of those nurses need something but you’re only one person. Not only do the nurses need something but the 30 patients need something so it’s extremely difficult, you just can’t do it,” said Charles Williams, a PCA at Buffalo General Medical Center. 

Union leader Jim Scordato with 1199 SEIU says staffing cuts are the reason for the added demand. 

The union says Kaleida recently cut more than 43 full time equivalent patient care assistant jobs at hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients and it’s affecting those on the bedside. 

“They’re running the hospital through the financial department,” Scordato said. “Where a few years back when leadership took over they said that they were going to lead with nursing. This is not leading with nursing this is definitely leading with finance.”

“The problem with these cuts is that these are frontline staff being cut. People that are giving direct patient care. Taking care of the sick, the infirmed,” said Buffalo General Medical Center PCA Robert Stoll. 

“We have to cut corners now. We’re not taking care of the patients the way we should be or the way we used to,” Thompson said. 

A spokesperson for Kaleida Health was not available Thursday for comment. 

The company did release a statement earlier in the week, saying there is no job loss and everyone affected will have an opportunity and seat if they choose. Adding the change is appropriate and is a redesign on how they deliver care to patients. They say the issue is about union leadership opposing change.

Union leaders disagree. “First of all, making change in a pandemic and on the verge of flu season starting is kind of crazy in our regards to making changes,” Scordato said. 

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