As a proposed nurse strike against unsafe staffing conditions draws closer, three hospitals reached pending contract agreements, joining a trio of other health centers who made similar strides earlier this week — and leaving over 8,ooo nurses to still fight for better work conditions.
According to Nancy Hagans, president of New York State Nurse Association (NYSNA), Flushing Hospital Medical Center, BronxCare and The Brooklyn Hospital Center made deals Friday night that promise to increase staffing ratios and enforcement, improve nurse salaries with a three year contract and preserve the staff’s health benefits.
“Congratulations to our nurses at these facilities for your hard work and dedication to your patients,” the president said during a press briefing Saturday morning.
A spokesperson with the organization said 8,700 nurses within three hospitals — Montefiore Bronx, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Mount Sinai Morningside and West — have yet to make deals. Hagans said Mount Sinai, who has two different campuses threatening to strike, hasn’t made efforts to bargain since Thursday night when hospital administration walked out of negotiations.
“These employees have engaged in unfair an unlawful behavior — trying to silence registered nurses from speaking out about safe staffing,” Hagans said.
One nurse, who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation from her employer, alleges that, instead of trying to avoid the strike, Mount Sinai leaders are pointing fingers back at the nurses, claiming they are the reason for staffing shortages.
“The administration was nowhere to be found for months if not years when we have had double the amount of patients that are safe. And now they are trying to blame us,” she said.
NICU nurses at Mount Sinai say they often care for up to three critically ill babies at once because of understaffing.
“We are ready to strike because we’ve been taken advantage of long enough. The ‘fragile and vulnerable’ babies that management now seems to feel empathy for have been dealing with the repercussions of unsafe staffing for years and management has yet to do anything to resolve this issue,” a NICU nurse said.
With a strike looming, employees at these facilities say they’ve worked around the clock to draw up a deal that would leave patients with a higher quality of care and alleviate their caseload where RNs have had to take on double the amount of patients that they would normally care for.
“We are willing to negotiate a fair contract and we are asking and urging Mt. Sinai to come to the table and negotiate in good faith and provide a fair contract that would provide safe nurse patient ratios,” Hagans told Brooklyn Paper.
During Saturday’s briefing, officials also announced that more hospitals who were not originally a part of the strike have started to bargain with their employers for better conditions. Private-sector nurses at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Williamsburg, delivered a notice to strike starting Jan. 17 if an agreement cannot be reached. Bargaining is also in progress at two One Brooklyn Health locations: Interfaith Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.
NYSNA members at the centers who have made tentative contracts still have to vote on if they will approve their arrangements. So far, only Maimonides has voted, with 94% approving the proposed deal.
“The approval of this agreement is good for Maimonides, good for our nurses, and good for the patients we serve. We worked together to find common ground that supports our hardworking nurses and ensures our patients, many from underserved communities, continue to receive the best possible care. I am grateful to the members of Maimonides’ and NYSNA’s negotiating teams, in particular NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, for making this agreement possible,” Ken Gibbs, CEO at Maimonides Health, said in a statement on Maimonides’ NYSNA members vote to ratify the three-year contract.
NewYork-Presbyterian is set to finish voting today and Richmond Medical Center on Monday, Jan. 9.