TUPPER LAKE Nurses represented by the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) gathered outside the Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Services Office (DDSO) in Tupper Lake today to call attention to the nursing shortage which has reached a crisis stage at the facility. Recruitment and retention of nurses is already at critical levels at most state agencies, said PEF Vice President Joe Fox. The situation is even worse at state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) facilities, including Sunmount, where inadequate staffing, the potential for workplace violence and stagnant pay make working at these facilities less appealing. The average salary for a nurse at Sunmount is 39 percent lower than salaries offered by other health care centers in the same region, said Ed Snow, intermediate care facility program manager at Sunmount. The wage disparity makes it almost impossible to recruit and retain nurses. Nurse staffing ratios have, therefore, created dangerous situations for both consumers and staff. Martha Spetla is a registered nurse at Sunmount. There are times when one nurse is responsible for covering anywhere from 60 to 200 consumers in multiple locations across the Sunmount campus, Spetla said. Nurses are spread so thin, we cant keep up. That opens the door to mistakes and puts patient safety at risk. The nurses were joined by members of several other unions who carried signs that read, Safe Staffing Now, and Im a nurse. I feel your pain. We cant have our nurses working to the point of exhaustion, added PEF Regional Coordinator William Crotty. Its time to increase the salaries of Sunmount nurses in order to fill nursing vacancies and provide the care critical to the well-being of the people they serve. PEF is the states second-largest state-employee union, representing 58,000 professional, scientific and technical employees including nearly 9,000 nurses who work at various state agencies and facilities. For more information, contact Darcy Wells at (518) 785-1900 ext. 277 or (518) 859-1274.