Nurses and hospital leadership speak out amid RGH nurse’s strike

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Hundreds of nurses at Rochester General Hospital are officially on strike starting Thursday. The nurses are still picketing outside the hospital, carrying signs demanding more competitive wages.

Representatives from the union, called RUNAP (Rochester Union of Nurses and Allied Professionals), say they want a contract with a wage increase over the next five years. 

Hospital leaders say they need more time to negotiate a contract and wanted to avoid a strike. Shari McDonald, chief nursing officer at Rochester General Hospital, says patient care at the hospital is continuing as normal and she supports nurses who continue to work during the strike.

“One misconception the union has been saying is we don’t have enough nurses. We don’t but we have compensated for that with travel nurses. There is a national shortage,” she said.

Carmen Camelio, president of the union, says staffing has been better but care is not improving.

“We don’t have the consistency of a base, core of staff nurses. Not just staff nurses but experienced staff nurses,” he said.

Nurse Stacey Judson says the hospital needs to work on retaining experienced staff members and keeping them from going to the competition.

“We’re fighting for each other. We’re fighting for safety. We’re fighting for community,” she said.

Rochester Regional Health released a statement soon after the strike began. The statement says that, since January 2020, the hospital has increased nurses’ base wages by an average of 19%.

The strike began at 7 a.m. Thursday will run through Saturday at 7 a.m. Both hospital officials and the union plan on returning to the bargaining table in the coming days.