Plattsburgh, NY — A potential strike was averted as nurses from the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital reached an agreement with hospital administrators.

Earlier this week, 83% of union members at CVPH voted yes on a new contract that includes health benefits and retention bonuses.

“It’s a sign of relief that I don’t have to worry about who’s going to take care of her,” said Kelly Gidman, a RN.

“It’s about respect,” said Kenney Millington, another RN. “It’s about feeling dignified in your position. It’s not just saying we are heroes but about walking the talk and getting the respect we deserve in this process.”

Members of the New York State Nurses Association had been seeking higher pay and more health benefits. Their most recent contract expired in January of last year and just recently had authorized a strike.

“My youngest daughter was born with a severe brain malformation,” said Gidman. “The thought that we would lose our health insurance caused me great anxiety.”

They had been feeling extra pressure from staffing shortages and were concerned about traveling nurses making significantly more. “Do you think that’s fair? Absolutely not,” said Vicky Davis Courson, a RN and co-Chair of the Bargaining Committee. “If they could pay them at a much higher rate, they could pay our members here what they’re worth.”

“I work here, I invest here, I live here,” said Gidman. “I’m devote to working and providing care for this community but yet you choose to pay someone four or ten times more to do the same job that I’m doing.”

Under terms of the deal, nurses will receive NYSNA health benefits which include long-term, and short-term disabilities, dental, and vision along with retention bonuses.

The President of the CPVH put out a statement on the agreement saying: “We are pleased to have a new contract with our employees represented by the New York State Nurses Association. It is a great step forward and offers all of us an opportunity to breathe, return to our core beliefs and a work environment that is supportive, kind and caring.”

The letter also touched on the shortages saying they are dealing with a “tremendously high number of patients in the midst of a chronic workforce shortage”. One nurse said they’ve had to serve 16 patients at once. “Imagine your family member comes in with chest pain and there’s not a nurse or a bed for them because we are loaded in the ER.”

Moving forward, nurses say they are still in labor negotiations with administrators. They point to a new state law that took effect earlier this year. They say a law that will ensure proper staffing ratios are met.