Three city hospitals have reached tentative contract agreement with nurses, avoiding a planned strike against understaffing, according to a New York State Nurses Association representative.
On Dec. 31, roughly 16,000 nurses spread across eight city hospitals including NewYork-Presbyterian, Montefiore Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, Maimonides Medical Center, BronxCare Health Systems, Richmond University Medical Center and Flushing Hospital Medical Center delivered ten-day strike notices to their hospitals to protest against staff shortages causing risk to nurses and patients. Contracts for thousands of nurses expired on Dec. 31, and they planned to strike on Jan. 9 if no agreement could be reached.
Just hours after the announcement was released, NewYork-Presbyterian reached an agreement with their staff, pending a ratification vote set to take place this week.
Last night, two more health centers, Maimonides and Richmond, negotiated a deal.
“We are pleased to reach a tentative agreement that recognizes the essential contributions of our indispensable nursing staff. We believe this agreement is fair and respects the needs of all parties while also helping us better serve our patients,” Maimonides CEO Ken Gibbs and NYSNA president Nancy Hagans said in a joint statement. “We look forward to continuing our productive relationship so we can meet the needs of our patients, community, and staff here at Maimonides.”
According to Hagans, who is also an RN at Maimonides, the main issue nurses have been fighting against is the unbalanced nurse-to-patient ratio, which negatively effects efficient care.
“We are bargaining to improve patient care. We want safe staffing in reality, not just on paper. We need fair wages that will help recruit and retain enough nurses to deliver quality care to every patient regardless of their zip code,” she said at a Jan. 5 press conference.
The NYSNA president said some hospitals have been interfering with the associations’ strike process by trying to stop nurses from speaking out, bargaining in bad faith, discriminating against nurses who are part of the association, and interfering with union rights.
“Our bosses created the understaffing crisis by failing to hire and retain enough nurses. We are trying to solve the crisis by negotiating a fair contract but they are fighting against us right now,” she said.
Earlier this year, Maimonides nurses protested outside the Borough Park hospital — railing against high pay for administrators even as nurses struggled to carry their patient loads due to understaffing. The hospital has since been the subject of a community campaign called “Save Maimonides,” which alleges that patient care at the hospital has degraded and that government officials should investigate “mismanagement.”
Staff at Mount Sinai claim NICU nurses have been asked to take on double their normal case load — a challenge that threatens overall quality patient care.
“It breaks my heart that a new mother’s experience of our hospital could be struggling to breastfeed her newborn for the first time without any support because her nurse is caring for double the number of newborns they’re supposed to,” said Matt Allen, labor and delivery nurse at Mount Sinai. “Hospital executives seem to forget that their mission is to provide quality care to the community and are instead penny-pinching by under-staffing nurses and under-serving patients.”
Administrators at Montefiore maintain there are just not enough funds to hire more nurses or pay current staff members a higher wage and are instead cutting some of the centers resources, NYSNA nurses said.
“We’re planning to strike for our patients. The Bronx ranks last of all counties across New York State when it comes to health outcomes. But instead of investing in our community, Montefiore has refused to do what it takes to hire and retain enough nurses,” Michelle Gonzalez, an RN at Montefiore, said in a statement. “Instead, Montefiore cut primary care services and is planning to shut down the Montefiore Nurse-Family Partnership, a lifeline for high risk pregnant mothers and their babies. Nurses are fighting to protect our patients – and we can’t do that without safe staffing.”
NYSNA administration urges the remaining health care centers to “get serious” about their contracts and follow in the lead of hospitals who are making agreements.
“Come to the table, negotiate a fair contract that will allow safe patient, nurse ratios,” Hagans said.
If a contract is not amended, the five remaining hospitals — Montefiore, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, BronxCare, and Flushing Hospital Medical Center — are set to begin their strike on Monday, Jan. 9.
“Nurses are the backbone of the hospital and will do whatever it takes to advocate for a patient. We cannot to watch as conditions continue to deteriorate and more nurses are leaving the bedside, leaving the profession in New York hospitals. Let’s get a fair contract because the clock is ticking.”