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Stony Brook nurses rally for extra pay, vacation for COVID-19 service

Nurses at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital are demanding

Nurses at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital are demanding hazard pay for working during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Credit: James Carbone

Nurses and other staffers at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital rallied outside both facilities on Wednesday, demanding hazard pay for working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workers said other local hospitals have offered extra cash and time off for employees as recognition of the stress and dangers they faced when hospitals were overcrowded with COVID-19 patients.

But they said Stony Brook rejected their requests for crisis pay, which ranged from $3,000 and one week vacation or $2,500 and two weeks of vacation, and countered with offers that included no pay and less extra vacation time. Union leaders said their requests mirrored what staffers in some other hospital systems in the region have received.

In April, Northwell Health -- the largest health system in the state, which owns and operates 19 hospitals in New York --  announced direct patient care-givers, such as nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists, would receive a lump-sum payment up to $2,500 and one week of paid time off that can be used at any time.

“The staff feels that the community recognized us and supported us during this time of crisis,” said Kenya Clinton-Coles, a nurse at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital and a delegate with 1199SEIU. “They feel the employers have not shown up to do the same.”

Stony Brook officials refused to discuss details of offers but said talks are ongoing.

“We value the skilled work of every member of our staff,” a spokesperson for both hospitals said in a statement. “Our primary concern has always been, and continues to be, our employees’ safety as they provide the highest quality of care for our patients. We work every day to foster a positive work environment where all employees are valued and respected.”

Clinton-Coles said workers showed up to do their jobs every day during the most dangerous days of the pandemic, even knowing they might bring COVID-19 home to their families.

“We were one of the first facilities to treat COVID patients on Long Island,” said Kelli Gatlin, an endoscopy technician and delegate at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. “We didn’t try to negotiate with them at the time we were on the frontlines.”

Gatlin also pointed out some workers had to self-quarantine away from their families and had drastic changes in their work hours.

“A lot of people had to deal with a lot of emotional issues,” she said.

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