By Rick Pezzullo
Since December 2018, an estimated 260 nurses employed at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt have been seeking a new contract.
Frustrated from stalled negotiations and weary from working shifts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with reduced staff, approximately 40 nurses, joined by several area elected officials, rallied outside the hospital September 30 to put pressure on hospital administrators to reward their dedication and hard work.
“Nurses need to be put in a position to give quality service,” said Kate Gregorio, a maternity nurse who works in the same unit where she was born. “Patients are suffering and we as nurses are suffering.”
Renee Mauro, who maintained staffing levels at the hospital were below its own operational standards, said beside adequate staffing, nurses were looking for fair wages and guaranteed retirement benefits.
“They want to extend this as long as they can,” said Mauro, a maternity nurse for 25 years.
Albert Liberatore, a representative from Teamsters Local 456, contended hospital officials should treat nurses “like heroes, not zeroes.”
“These nurses risk their lives every day,” he said. “Give these essential workers what they deserve—a fair contract.”
Peekskill Councilwoman Vanessa Agudelo also lambasted hospital higher-ups for not reaching a deal with the nurses.
“The way you have been treated by this hospital is abysmal,” Agudelo said. “You shouldn’t have to choose between your well-being and a patient’s well-being. It’s been far too long. Thank you for putting your livelihoods at risk.”
NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital issued a statement pledging their support of the nursing staff.
“As we continue to navigate unprecedented challenges associated with the pandemic, the well-being of our team is paramount to us—their safety and the safety of our patients and the community is always our top priority,” the hospital stated. “We value our dedicated nurses and their continued contributions to the numerous regional and national recognitions our hospital has received for clinical excellence and outstanding patient outcomes. Our goal in the ongoing negotiations for a first contract with NYNSA is to reach a fair agreement that recognizes the remarkable work our nurses do every day.”
Cortlandt Councilman Dr. Richard Becker, a cardiologist formerly affiliated with the hospital, expressed optimism a deal will get done.
“I do believe in the end the administration will do the right thing,” he said. “We need to make sure our nurses are paid equitable across the region. They are skilled workers, they are dedicated workers and they put their lives on the line for us.”