BUFFALO, N.Y. — After a month-long strike at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Catholic Health is discontinuing health benefits for union workers until a new contract is agreed upon.

Catholic Health officials say they told the CWA's union leadership last Monday it would suspend those benefits if a tentative agreement was not reached by Oct. 30, and that it would resume payment and administration once union members ratified an agreement.

Catholic Health says after two days of negotiations, talks with the CWA broke down Sunday morning over staffing levels.

They claim the union is risking a deal affecting 2,500 workers over just a few specific hospital units.

The vice president of CWA District One, Dennis Trainor, previously said Catholic Health is trying to go backward on staffing and their proposal would create ratios in surgical units that would be unsafe for staff and patients.

“Catholic Health knows its allegations can’t be taken seriously when it calls us healthcare heroes in one breath and dangerous in the next," Trainor said. "Bargaining continues to be productive, and we are hopeful that a resolution is on the horizon. The reality is that Catholic Health is trying to go backward on staffing, and its proposal would create ratios in medical-surgical units that are worse than the current management-created staffing grids. We are ready to put this strike behind us and get back to work, and as soon as Catholic Health agrees to staffing ratios that are safe for staff and patients, we can do that.”

Trainor also issued a statement concerning the discontinuation of health benefits:

"The announcement this afternoon by Catholic Health System that they are terminating health benefits for the striking members of CWA Local 1133 is a blatant attempt to intimidate the workers into ending their strike before a fair agreement is reached.

It won’t work, just like all of CHS’s other threats up until now.

The CWA national Members Relief Fund has $425 million in it. As of this week, the union’s weekly benefits for strikers have been increased to $400, on top of NYS unemployment benefits for which they are eligible. The MRF will also ensure that no striker faces any financial hardship for a medical or dental emergency of any kind, and that medical care for chronic conditions will be continued.

CWA Local 1133 members at Mercy Hospital remain united and strong, determined to last one day longer in order to win a fair contract that guarantees that there will be safe staffing in every department of the hospital. CHS patients need and deserve nothing less."

“It’s getting to be winter time. More kids are going to be getting sick. And the families, they’re depending on that,” said Karen Mahoney, registered nurse. “I don’t know what he was thinking. It’s a shame.”

“We’re still out here,” said Diane Peach, environmental services at Mercy Hospital. “So if we’re still out here, it's not that good. Hopefully, you know, they will give us what we’re asking for, so we can all go back there and be there for our patients.”