NEW YORK NURSE: October 2009
by Randi Hoffman
NYSNA nurses have become an instrumental part of the Save Mount Vernon Hospital Coalition.
The group has formed to keep Mount Vernon Hospital from being restructured out of functioning as a full-service community hospital. So far, the coalition has organized a press conference and a town hall meeting, and is circulating a petition. Other members of the coalition include unions, governmental officials, and community members.
About 180 NYSNA RNs work at the facility, which has been a NYSNA bargaining unit for 30 years. Mount Vernon Mayor Clinton Young held a press conference in front of the hospital to protest the restructuring. “For decades, Mount Vernon Hospital has provided invaluable health services and employment to the residents of our city,” Young said. “I believe any reduction of staffing or services at Mount Vernon Hospital would be completely unjustified. I will do everything in my power to preserve current staffing and service levels.”
Mount Vernon Hospital is owned by the Sound Shore Health System, which also owns Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle. The fear is that more and more services will be moved from Mount Vernon to Sound Shore.
The coalition held a town hall meeting on Sept. 9. NYSNA nursing representative Camille Edwards spoke to the group, reporting that area nursing students are no longer doing clinicals at Mount Vernon. Fifteen NYSNA members attended the meeting.
In 1997, Mount Vernon’s OB/GYN department was relocated to Sound Shore, said Tracy McCook, an emergency room nurse and chair of NYSNA’s bargaining unit at Mount Vernon. “We’ve delivered babies in the ER at Mount Vernon and then we sent the mother and baby to Sound Shore or Westchester Medical Center.”
“It’s an indigent population served by the hospital,” explained McCook. “At least 75% of the people who come to Mount Vernon for care are either self-paying or on Medicaid. We don’t get a lot of insured patients. These patients don’t have the means or the transportation to get care somewhere else. They walk to the hospital – even the asthma patients.”
NYSNA Nursing Representative Therese Wittner said that Sound Shore’s emergency department is overcrowded and already has a problem providing enough beds for patients.
Wittner reported that Mount Vernon laid off four nurses on Sept. 15. Three were from the intensive care unit and one from the wound care department. “These nurses have worked at Mount Vernon for most of their professional careers,” said Wittner.
“The morale among the nurses is poor. Everyone is on edge. People are afraid in this economy,” said McCook. “I don’t know if Mount Vernon will continue to exist as a full-service hospital.”