7000 Nurses At Two Hospitals In New York City Are On Strike Because Of Failed Contract Negotiations: More than 7,000 nurses at two significant hospitals in New York City quit their jobs on Monday, claiming that severe staffing shortages are contributing to widespread burnout and impeding their capacity to provide patients with the care they require.
The nurses’ complaints—which have been echoed by numerous other nurses’ strikes across the nation in the previous year—are that they are working excessive hours in hazardous settings without receiving enough pay. A 19% wage increase offer, according to the union that represents nurses, is insufficient to address staffing shortages.
This is the most recent in a string of strikes that have recently occurred in the healthcare sector. The system is no longer able to function with the widespread shortages that emerged during those three years, according to union members who were on the front lines during the three-year fight against the Covid epidemic.
Even though tentative agreements covering nurses at several hospitals had been reached in recent days, including two new agreements late on Sunday night, talks with Mount Sinai hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and three locations of the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx broke down overnight.
“No tentative agreements were achieved yesterday after long negotiations at the Mount Sinai and Montefiore hospitals. More than 7,000 nurses at two hospitals are currently on strike in support of fair contracts that enhance patient care, according to a statement released on Monday by the New York State Nurses Association.
Early on Monday, two city blocks of nurses and supporters were occupied by pickets in front of Mount Sinai. Throughout the morning, the number of pickets grew. The picket line extended onto the street, occasionally obstructing traffic. Picketers chanted, “Safe staffing saves lives,” at Montefiore. Passing motorists honked their horns in solidarity at both hospitals, drawing shouts from the picket lines.
On the picket line on Monday, Warren Urquhart, a transplant nurse at Mount Sinai, told CNN, “We’ve been pushing for working under safer conditions.” “Every day, we strive to do our best. In the hospital, something is not right. We are outside the hospital because of this.
The nurses are cheering and waving their signs as cars pass by while honking.
NURSES ON STRIKE
Over 7,000 nurses at Mt. Sinai's main campus in Manhattan & the Montefiore system in the Bronx were forced to go on strike this a.m. They're fighting for better pay, safer patient ratios & more.
It's simple: nurses are heroes and they deserve a fair contract. pic.twitter.com/zpwOCYLbrz
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) January 9, 2023
Nurses in the neurology department at Montefiore are compelled to work without breaks or time for meals, according to Doreen Chulon, a 15-year employee who works in the hospital.
“We’re exhausted. The next day, we’re worn out,” she remarked. She claimed that because the patients in the department are frequently confused or mentally unstable and are at high danger of falling, the ratio has increased from one nurse for every four patients to one for every six, which is a safety concern.
The union was condemned by both hospitals for going on strike instead of accepting proposals that were, in their opinion, comparable to those that the union had taken over the previous ten days at other hospitals in the city.
According to a statement from Mount Sinai’s spokesperson Lucia Lee to CNN, “NYSNA leadership pulled out of discussions soon after 1 a.m. ET, refusing to accept the exact same 19.1% salary rise offer agreed to by eight other hospitals, including two other Mount Sinai Health System campuses.”
It was “a sad day for New York City,” according to Montefiore.
Despite Montefiore’s promise to generate more than 170 new nursing positions and a 19.1% compounded wage rise, which was the same offer accepted at the wealthiest of our peer institutions,… The management of NYSNA has made the decision to leave its patients’ bedsides, the hospital said in a statement.
Exhausted And Overworked
The nurses at Mount Sinai and Montefiore are overworked and at risk of burnout after three years of laboring on the front lines, fighting the pandemic, according to the union, which has agreed to the same hikes at other hospitals. They claim that the long hours and stress of caring for too many patients are driving away nurses and escalating the staffing and patient care crisis.
In a press conference on Sunday afternoon, NYSNA President Nancy Hagans stated, “We urge management to come to the table and provide better staffing.”
The union maintains that it is going on strike to advance patient care.
“Entering a hospital to receive the care you require is NOT going against our strike line. If hospital care is required, patients should get there right away, the statement advised. “Our managers have forced us to be out here instead, even though we would prefer to be the ones giving that care.”
Hagans states that there are 760 nursing positions open at Montefiore, and she adds that “too frequently, one nurse in the emergency room is responsible for 20 patients instead of the standard of three patients.”
Judy Gonzalez, an emergency room nurse at Montefiore Medical Center, expressed her displeasure on Monday at not being able to provide her patients with the care they needed due to a lack of staff. Since before the outbreak, the number of open posts at the Montefiore Moses campus has more than doubled, she claimed.
She claimed, “I don’t feel like I’m providing a service to my patients. Gonzalez, a 40-year employee at Montefiore, stated, “I have patients who grasp my shirt, but I can’t help them because I have to do something else.
Gonzalez is a participant in the union’s bargaining team. She claimed to have been at discussions until around 3:30 a.m. on Monday, at which point she was on the picket line.
Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York had encouraged the union and management to consent to binding arbitration on Sunday night in an effort to prevent the strike. The union rejected the notion, despite the two hospitals’ administrations supporting it.
The union responded to Hochul’s recommendation for arbitration by stating, “We won’t give up on our campaign to make sure that our patients have enough nurses at the bedside.
However, the hospitals criticized the union for choosing to strike rather than accept the arbitration offer and urged nurses to do the same.
“NYSNA keeps acting irrationally. According to Mount Sinai, the Governor’s suggestion would have offered a way to prevent a strike. “The security of our patients is our first priority. Despite the NYSNA strike, we encourage the Mount Sinai nurses to continue offering the top-notch care for which they are renowned. We are prepared to minimize inconvenience.
The nurses union gave the hospitals ten days to prepare for a strike after it announced its intentions. Wherever possible, the impacted hospitals intend to pay temporary “travelling” nurses to fill in, and some have already started shifting patients.
A representative for Mount Sinai stated on Monday that the hospital had relocated some of its non-nursing staff and brought in “hundreds” of travelling nurses. The Mount Sinai Nurses Union has 3,600 members.
According to a memo from Montefiore that CNN was able to get, if nurses wanted to keep working and provide patient care, they needed to resign from the union.
Infants in the neonatal critical care unit have been transferred since the end of the previous week by Mount Sinai, which runs two hospitals that reached agreements Sunday evening in addition to the one that is presently experiencing a strike. Hospitals anticipating strikes had already moved some elective procedures to a later date.
According to the union, hospitals will spend more money on temporary nurse hires at a much higher cost. It makes the case that hospitals ought to accede to the union’s demands for pay rises and greater staffing.
Hagans stated in a statement on Friday that “as nurses, patient safety is our main concern.” “Yet nurses… have been compelled to work without enough staff, stretched to the limit, often with one nurse in the Emergency Department responsible for 20 patients. Nurses and our patients are not secure with that.
A Difficult Agreement
The hospitals assert that they are making every effort to increase their nursing personnel.
Mount Sinai released a statement on Friday saying that it was “dismayed by NYSNA’s reckless acts.” Dedicated Mount Sinai nurses are being forced to choose between their commitment to patient care and their own livelihoods because of the union, which is endangering the patients’ treatment.
In a decision that was made public by the union on Saturday, nurses at New York-Presbyterian, the first hospital to negotiate a tentative agreement, confirmed that accord. With 57% of nurses voting in favour and 43% voting against, it was a tight call. Before going into force, the recent tentative agreements still need to be approved by the union’s rank-and-file members.
Strikes have increased in frequency across the country as a result of tight labour markets and dissatisfaction with working conditions leading unionised employees to exercise their bargaining power more frequently.
According to the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, there were 385 strikes in 2022, a 42% increase from 270 in 2021. Only large strikes involving 1,000 or more workers are tracked by the US Labor Department, and in the first 11 months of 2022, there were 20 strikes, up 33% from the same time in 2021.
Many unions cited instances of member burnout and health issues as the reason for the numerous nurse strikes that were among the documented work stoppages.
Nurse unions were involved in four of the 20 strikes the Labor Department documented last year. The greatest involved 13 hospitals in the state during a three-day strike by the 15,000 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association.