BUFFALO, N.Y. — Health care workers came out in force outside Mercy Hospital Wednesday, demanding better staffing, pay and more.

Their current contract expires September 30.

What You Need To Know

  • Health care workers at Mercy, St. Joseph’s and Kenmore Mercy hospitals are demanding "safe staffing levels" before their contract ends

  • Their current contract expires September 30

  • Catholic Health says there is a labor shortage they are working to fill

The union was rallying for workers there, as well as Kenmore Mercy and Saint Joseph hospitals.

Their demands include better staffing, better benefits and a fair wage increase.

“Enough is enough," said Debora Hayes, the Upstate New York area director for the Communication Workers of America. "They want the staff, the equipment, the supplies they need to do their work.”

These are frustrations that have made things harder for these everyday heroes.

“Personally, I've experienced days with no breaks," recalled Sara Harmon, a certified surgical technologist. "[Working] long hours, [and] having to stay longer, so 12-plus hour shifts, if needed.”

“Over the weekend we were short 26 registered nurses," added Jillian Trageser, a registered nurse. "Those are just registered nurses. That's not including the aides that were missing, the supplies that were short, equipment that is 50 years old.”

Now, they’ve brought their concerns to the public, urging Catholic Health to think about the people and not their bottom line.

“They don't see it as if their loved ones were in the hospital, and how we can't take care of them as much as we want to, because of the staffing issues," said Kayla Anderson, a registered nurse. "So I feel like they need to see it if roles were reversed.”

“There was a problem with staffing in 2016 and 2017 and 2019 and before COVID," said Hayes. "This isn't anything new.”

This display was meant to show that they mean business.

“Buffalo is my home and I'd like to stay here if at all possible. But if things don't get better, there's options out there as well,” said Harmon.

If an agreement isn’t reached by September 30, the contract will expire and the union plans to strike.

Catholic Health did sent out a statement which reads in full:



"Thanks to strong leadership and the hard work of our entire healthcare team, Catholic Health remains the area leader in quality, patient safety, and overall patient satisfaction as evidenced by the latest CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) Hospital. Compare star ratings and independent Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades.

We remain committed to bargaining in good faith with the union to reach contracts that provide our associates with fair, competitive wages and benefits, while allowing our hospitals to continue providing high quality, affordable care to our community. We hope to settle these negotiations with CWA without delays or disputes, just as Catholic Health recently did with SEIU 1199 at our St. Joseph Campus, McAuley Residence and St. Catherine Labouré Health Care Center.

While negotiations continue, we are in the midst of a local and national labor shortage, affecting big and small employers across the country and health care providers here in Western New York. We’ve added additional resources within our recruitment department and our team is working diligently to fill all vacant positions. We participate in numerous job fairs and hiring events, and market our job openings extensively throughout the region and beyond.   

The lack of qualified candidates, extended unemployment benefits and extensive state-mandated leave policies make it difficult to fill vacant positions. Like other area health care providers, we continue to hire contracted agency staff to supplement our workforce. Despite these challenges, we continue to recruit and develop qualified candidates, hiring more than 900 new associates since the beginning of the year.

The supply chain has been affected by the global pandemic and we have been working very closely with our suppliers as well as pursuing new supply channels to ensure our staff have the supplies they need.

Mercy Hospital of Buffalo is operating as usual during the planned informational picket."