The nurses at Mount Sinai’s main hospital on the Upper East Side and Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx walked off their jobs at 6 am on Jan. 9.
Last minute deals Jan. 8 averted strikes at Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai Morningside. The New York State Nurses Association which represents the striking nurses said the deal on the two Mount Sinai’s on the west side improves staffing levels and health care benefits and carries wage hikes of 19.1 percent over the life of the three year pact, which still must be ratified by rank and file members. It consists of wage hikes of 7%, 6% and 5%, respectively, over the next three years.
The NYSNA gave a 10-day advance notice of strike on Dec. 20 in order to allow hospitals to prepare for the strike and that spurred talks between seven city hospitals and the union to reach tentative agreements to avert a strike.
”Our main goal in these negotiations is to improve patient care, to save staffing and fair wages, to recruit and retain nurses,” said NYSNA president Nancy Hagans at a press conference Jan. 6
Mount Sinai, which has three Manhattan hospitals facing the strike that includes its headquarters in East Harlem as well as Mount Sinai West and Morningside hospitals, said on Jan. 6 that it is already moving babies from its intensive care unit to non-strike hospitals.
“We are seeking a resolution. The impact is great,” a Mount Sinai spokesperson told CNN on. Jan. 6 while blasting the NYSNA leadership. “The union is jeopardizing patients’ care and it’s forcing valued Mount Sinai nurses to choose between their dedication to patient care and their own livelihoods.”
But NYSNA’s Hagans, in her briefing with reporters that morning blasted hospital management. “The bosses have repeatedly broken their promises on staffing,” she said. “Our safe staffing standards are routinely violated and management gaslight the nurses when we try to enforce our current contract.”
New York Presbyterian nurses was the first hospital to reach a tentative agreement with the nurses on Dec. 31. Maimonides and Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island, Flushing Hospital Medical Center and BronxCare also reached tentative agreements on Jan. 6.
The new contracts all call for wage hikes that amount to 19.1 percent over the life of the contract, the union said, with wage hikes of 7%, 6% and 5% per year over the next three years. Maimondies nurses already ratified the pact over the weekend with 94 percent voting in favor, the union said.
Meanwhile, a nurse working at Montefiore who asked not to be named says that understaffing is one of the major issues motivating the strike there. With fewer nurses available to care for patients, those on staff are stretched thinner and thinner.
It’s Grueling, It’s Exhausting
“It’s grueling, it’s exhausting physically [and] mentally. It’s not good for patient safety. If the patient to nurse ratio is 5 to 1...there’s a potential for an error there. And the hypervigilance that is required to maintain a patient’s safety can be mentally and physically exhausting.”
The pandemic amplified many of the issues, worsening the understaffing. Emergency rooms are particularly hard hit.
“The emergency room is severely understaffed, so one of the things that they’re asking for is that we add more nurses to the emergency room staff,” the nurse told Straus News.
The first hospital to reach a new deal, New York Presbyterian Hospital, in addition to the pay hike, agreed to increase the ratio of emergency room nurses to patients. They also agreed to address understaffing and to not cut health benefits. The other settled hospitals soon followed suit. However, the source at Montefiore said she was never optimistic that a similar agreement could be reached at her hospital in time to avert a strike.
“We had a meeting [between union members and management last week] and it did get contentious. It didn’t seem like anything was resolved at all, actually, so I don’t think we’re even close to resolving it.
“It doesn’t look great from where I’m sitting right now,” she continued days before the strike actually started. “Hopefully there’ll be a change, that’d be great. No one wants a strike.”
“It’s grueling, it’s exhausting physically [and] mentally.” A registered nurse at Montefiore Hospital