WEST HAVERSTRAW — The staff at Helen Hayes Hospital are often described as miracle workers, drawing patients from multiple states due to their favorable outcomes in challenging cases.

For CSEA members working at this state-run rehabilitation hospital, that means providing the ancillary services needed for a positive patient experience.

Since COVID-19 first hit, workers have had the added challenge of staying healthy while also preventing the spread of COVID within the facility, all while working more overtime to make up for staff shortages.

According to Helen Hayes Hospital Local President Bruno Bednarski, news of a temporary increase in the overtime pay rate couldn’t have come at a better time.

“There has been an uptick in the number of CSEA members who’ve been quarantined or are sick with COVID,” said Bednarski. “People are a lot more willing now to take on the overtime because of the extra incentive. It hit the nail on the head, as far as I’m concerned.”

Bednarski said workers at his facility had gotten word of nearby state facilities including Rockland Psychiatric Center and Hudson Valley DDSO receiving the enhanced overtime rate. They inquired as to why state Department of Health-run facilities such as Helen Hayes Hospital weren’t yet included.

“When CSEA told us we were now included, a lot of people were happy,” said Bednarski, who added that he hopes the enhanced rate is extended beyond its current expiration date.

As this edition went to press, CSEA and New York state have also successfully negotiated temporary overtime pay agreements with the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and Department Of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).

Helen Hayes Hospital, which was founded in 1900 as the first freestanding state hospital devoted to treating people with disabilities, provides both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services.

The hospital, which was renamed in 1974 for famous actress and hospital supporter Helen Hayes MacArthur, who lived nearby, was opened partially in response to another pandemic. Children suffering the physical effects of tuberculosis were treated there. By the 1920s, polio was a leading cause of hospitalization there.

— Jessica Ladlee


About Author

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

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