Strong ED packed while RGH nurses strike

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — As the nursing strike at Rochester General Hospital continues, patients are taking notice and it appears many are choosing other hospitals. While RGH has brought in traveling nurses to cover for those who are on the picket line, it seems many patients are taking their business elsewhere.

As striking nurses were outside RGH on Friday, they mentioned the lack of patients inside, “There are no patients,” Stacey Judson, an Emergency Department Nurse at RGH, said to the crowd. “The ED had a 27-patient census this morning, 27 patients … when I left the other day, we had 150 patients, but there’s 27 this morning.”

Strong Memorial Hospital has been packed since the strike began on Thursday. On Friday morning, it warned patients coming to the Emergency Department that their wait would be longer than normal unless their medical condition was critical and they should consider an urgent care visit first.

“We made preparations to call in extra doctors and nurses if needed,” explains Chip Partner, the VP of Communications for the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). “We did call in extra doctors and nurses just to make sure we can handle the volume in the ED.”

While there are normally ebbs and flows when it comes to the number of patients in the emergency department, there have been no ebbs, just a steady flow. “If you’re having a critical emergency, you think you’re having a heart attack or a stroke, please come to our ED — you’ll be seen immediately by great doctors and nurses — but if you have a non-critical need, you’re going to wait longer than usual and that’s a long time,” Partner says.

When asked how long is long, “I can’t give a specific number because it changes minute by minute, hour by hour … but it can be many hours for a non-critical need,” Partner added.

The RGH nursing strike is set to end on Saturday morning. Nurses are expected to return to work while their union leadership continues negotiations.

In a follow-up statement late Friday, URMC said, “The Strong emergency department has remained crowded during the day, but all patients are being assessed quickly, and anyone experiencing a critical health concern receives immediate attention. We’ve also taken steps to reduce crowding by moving ED patients who need inpatient care as quickly as possible to hospital units when beds are available. We continue to urge patients with non-emergency needs to visit our Get Care Now site for faster ways to see a provider. It’s important to note that Strong’s overall patient volumes are high but within normal ranges for our extremely busy hospital, and ED wait times fluctuate for a wide range of reasons. We can say confidently that COVID cases are not driving high patient volumes at the moment, but we cannot say that any other individual factor is causing this recent uptick.”