WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Nurses have said, “enough is enough.”

Over 100 Samaritan Medical Center nurses gathered outside of the hospital on February 2 to picket and protest staffing issues, as the hospital has felt the national nursing shortage.

This crisis has especially hit the medical-surgical, critical care, and mental health units, and the emergency department, according to the New York State Nurses Association.

“When you don’t have the staff you need, you can’t provide the excellent care that our patients deserve,” Registered Nurse Jennifer Anderson said, who has worked at Samaritan for over a decade. “We’re left feeling inadequate when we leave at the end of the day, every single day.”

In 2022, Samaritan Medical Center hired dozens of new nurses. However, according to Communications Director Leslie DiStefano, over 70 positions remain unfilled.

Nurses explained this has required staff to work long hours while also covering more patients. These conditions, union members said are hazardous in the workplace.

“We are the eyes and ears for the medical team taking care of the patient,” SMC Registered Nurse Stephanie Buker expressed. “So we need to make sure that we have conditions that are good for our nurses. If the nurses are taken care of, they can take care of our patients.

The crowd on Thursday also demanded safer working conditions through a new contract.

The previous contract for Samaritan’s nurses ended in June 2022. The New York State Nurses Association explained that this is the first contract that Samaritan nurses have negotiated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It isn’t just an economic package, we’re talking about patient safety and good quality healthcare,” Central Labor Council of Northern New York President Ron McDougall said at the picket.

“We’ve been fighting for this since June,” Jennifer Anderson, RN, added. “We’ve had meetings with administration and we’re still fighting.

But Samaritan’s DiStefano said the contract negotiation process is complex and a timeline is uncertain.

“There is no timeline,” DiStefano explained. “It’s a part of a process. There have been several negotiation sessions already. Samaritan will continue to collectively bargain and go through the process with good faith. And listening to our nurses and really trying to get to a fair, reasonable contract for the nurses for Samaritan and all our staff.”

In total, Samaritan Medical Center has over 300 unionized nurses. More information will be released as it becomes available.