NEW YORK NURSE: December 2008
by Randi Hoffman
The rugged nurses of Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center (TCC) have braved the rain and freezing cold to hold three vigils in front of their facility in East Harlem.
They wanted to demonstrate to TCC management that they will not stand by silently while 17 or more RN jobs are eliminated and the work assigned to LPNs. Management has proposed that these job eliminations take place before the new year. There are 185 NYSNA nurses at the facility, which is part of the Catholic Health Care System.
At a Nov. 5 candlelight vigil, the nurses were 100 strong. They carried flashlights and put up their red NYSNA umbrellas in the rain. They recited the Florence Nightingale oath that they had taken when they became registered nurses.
TCC is a long term care facility treating patients with Alzheimer’s, AIDS, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, and adults and children with severe developmental disabilities. “Many TCC patients require the level of care that only a registered nurse can provide,” said Christina Terranova, RN, nursing representative for NYSNA. “This is another step in what appears to be a long term plan to replace RNs with LPNs, to the danger of the patients we serve.”
By law, LPNs are not qualified to assess the condition of patients, develop and adjust nursing care plans, administer certain treatments or medications, or overall function independently of an RN or other authorized professional.
The average amount of RN care a TCC resident receives is higher than the statewide average of 36 minutes per day. But nearly a third of TCC patients have special needs. These patients require constant assessment and adjustment to their care plans.
On Monday, Nov. 17, about 70 nurses were out in front of TCC again, this time in the middle of the day. Each nurse took a pink rose and placed it in front of the statue of the Madonna that stands before the facility.
“The roses are a symbol of the respect, reverence, and love that the nurses have for the patients, the institution, and the mission that Cardinal Cooke had for those who were helpless and couldn’t help themselves,” said Terranova.
That day, the police drove up to the vigil, talked to NYSNA staff, and then drove away. Cardinal Edward Egan had been scheduled to visit the facility for a meeting about the process of beatification, or a papal declaration of sainthood for Terence Cardinal Cooke, but he did not arrive.
The nurses’ contract with the facility is under negotiation. The plan to eliminate the RN positions was proposed outside of the contract. The negotiating team is concerned that TCC management may hold the contract agreement hostage until the nurses agree to the replacement of RNs by LPNs.