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'Do what's right': ECMC nurses raise issues, demand new contract

New York State Nurses Association member Crystal Knihinicki addresses the media outside Erie County Medical Center
Thomas O'Neil-White
New York State Nurses Association member Crystal Knihinicki addresses the media outside Erie County Medical Center May 31, 2023.

New York State Nurses Association members are now eight months into contract talks with Erie County Medical Center.

On Wednesday members stood outside of the medical campus calling on the administration to come to terms on a new contract that addresses several issues nurses have been dealing with.

One of those issues is nurse retention and recruitment.

A lack of emphasis in recruitment is leading to a lack of retention with the situation summed up by registered n nurse Crystal Knihinicki.

“Dismal at best,” she said of the staffing situation.

But the nurses have a solution.

“We have presented a nursing apprenticeship program,” Knihinicki said. “Which would include high school seniors and people with a G.E.D. to help pay for their tuition costs to earn a bachelor's degree and in return they would work for ECMC for three years.”

Knihinicki said the program will create a pipeline for aspiring nurses and avoid staffing crises like the one they are currently facing and take pressure off of nurses ready to retire.

A win-win in Knihinicki’s book but she says the proposal is currently falling on deaf ears.

In statement to WBFO News, ECMC said it continues to support nurses and clinical staff with raises and a staffing plan with increases that was signed off by NYSNA in 2022, leading to the hiring of 360 nurses over the last two years.

ECMC said it continues to work with the nurses on a contract that is beneficial to all parties.

But Knihinicki said the nurses are not going anywhere until they are heard.

“And we will see you back at the bargaining table,” she said.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.