Rochester Regional Health releases statement amid nurses’ strike

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Soon after nurses at Rochester General Hospital began their strike on Thursday morning, Rochester Regional Health released a statement.

The strike is happening because RRH couldn’t reach an agreement with the union representing nurses at the hospital. You can follow live updates here.

The statement from RRH says it’s deeply disappointed in the union’s decision to go on strike. The statement says several union-represented nurses have decided not to join the strike and continue their work. Here’s the full statement:

“We are deeply disappointed that the leadership of the Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals (RUNAP) has taken their membership out on strike.

RGH did not want this strike and we believe nothing we have proposed or haven’t proposed in our negotiations with RUNAP warranted this strike. RUNAP’s leadership is conducting a strike when RGH’s proposals at the bargaining table have sought to ensure our units are appropriately staffed, continue providing competitive pay and benefits and ensure we are able to provide our patients with the best possible care. In fact, at our recent bargaining sessions, RGH moved substantially on numerous issues, including wages and staffing, which the union has indicated are two of their most important issues.

A number of RUNAP-represented nurses have decided not to join the strike and are on the job for their scheduled shifts. Our nurses are essential to our ability to provide the highest quality care, and we are grateful for their commitment to their patients and to RGH.

We have also contracted with a nationally respected agency to hire temporary replacement nurses who have been carefully screened, selected and trained on RGH’s systems and protocols. All replacement nurses meet, or exceed, licensing and credentialing requirements. We are confident in their clinical expertise and ability to work alongside our nurse leadership, physicians and other staff to deliver outstanding patient care.

RGH has already spent millions of non-refundable dollars securing expert, safe patient care during this RUNAP strike. Patients with scheduled procedures, treatment and exams should plan to visit RGH at their scheduled appointment and should expect to receive the excellent care they have come to expect from RGH. In addition, any patient requiring use of RGH’s Emergency Department should continue to do so. It’s also important to note that none of RRH’s other hospitals or locations are affected in any way by the strike at RGH.

We recently recommended the involvement of Federal Mediators who joined us at our bargaining sessions on July 13, July 19, August 1 and August 2 to try to avert the strike and reach an agreement. And, in many of our recent proposals, we adopted much of the union’s language.

It’s also important to remember that, since January 2020, we had already increased nurse base wages by an average of 19%. If the union had accepted our most recent wage proposal of an average 7.8% increase for the first year of the contract, that would’ve equated to a more than 26% average increase in a little over three-and-a-half years. On the other hand, RUNAP’s most recent proposals would make RGH’s nurses among the highest paid in the entire country.

If RGH were to agree to everything RUNAP wanted around wages, staffing and benefits, it would cost Rochester Regional Health (RRH) more than $111 million for just the first year of the contract. Given that RRH is already projecting a $150 million loss this year, and anticipates further losses into 2024, that would be irresponsible.

RRH provides health care services to approximately half the population of the Rochester area. In addition, in 2022 alone, RRH provided more than $265 million in uncompensated care to our community. If all of RUNAP’s proposals were agreed to, the cost could require us to reduce our community programs and charitable support across the region.

We look forward to resuming negotiations and remain committed to transparent and collaborative negotiations to reach a fair agreement.”