BINGHAMTON, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – As the pandemic subsides, UHS is able to show its appreciation for its nurses and other healthcare workers in a more traditional way.

Binghamton General Hospital held a free barbeque in its cafeteria today featuring Lupo’s spiedies.

It’s in recognition of National Hospital Week and National Nurses Week which coincide this week.

In addition to the barbeque lunch, there will be ice cream trucks, trivia contests, prize drawings, a scavenger hunt, chair massage and therapy dogs for the employees.

Director of Nursing Education Toni Nash says that morale took a big hit during the height of the pandemic but has started to improve.

“We’ve been able to start to connect with each other which was something we weren’t able to do during the pandemic with meetings being remote, staff on the front line working so diligently. We just felt a big disconnect between senior management and our staff, staff to staff. And now that we’re being able to come back together as a team and a family, I think morale is definitely improving.”

UHS Presient and CEO John Carrigg helped serve workers today.

He thanks the community for the support that has been shown to healthcare workers during COVID, including free food, places to stay and well wishes.

Carrigg says Nurses Week celebrations over the past 3 years were somewhat muted.

“We’ve had to be masked, we’ve had to be careful about social distancing, haven’t really been able to be together as we have in the past. Just the opportunity to celebrate and thank people for what they do every single day, thank them for their dedication, is really, really important.”

Carrigg and Nash have good news that the nursing shortage is also starting to subside.

Nash says an orientation for new nurses, nursing assistants, mental health techs and aides had 27 people today, including three who are returning after leaving during the pandemic.

And Crrigg says UHS has been able to reduce its reliance on costly travel nurses.