February 9, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) — Negotiations to keep some 10,000 New York City nurses from walking off the job headed into one final weekend, as some major hospitals already braced Friday for a possible strike by sending ambulances to others. places and moving some patients, including vulnerable newborns.

The strike could begin early Monday at several private hospitals, including two of the city’s largest: Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, each with more than 1,000 beds.

They and a handful of other hospitals are negotiating with nurses who want raises and an end to what they say are unsustainable staffing restrictions, nearly three years into the coronavirus pandemic.

“New York City hospitals have violated our trust during years of staffing shortages, and those staffing shortages have only worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Nurses Union President Nancy Hagans. , at a press conference on Friday. “It is time for them to come to the table and provide the staff safety standards that nurses and our patients deserve.”

Mount Sinai’s director of nursing, Fran Cartwright, acknowledged that nurses are stretched thin. But she pointed to the disruptive advance of the pandemic in people’s work lives, at their bedside and beyond.

“Our nurses work with patients 24/7, so they feel it and I feel it with them,” he said in an interview. “It takes years after a pandemic to add stability.”

After taking on health risks and huge workloads at the height of the virus crisis, the profession is facing burnout that has driven many nurses to other jobs. or at least away from full-time hospital work.

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Nurses at a Massachusetts hospital went on strike for nearly 10 months until last January, marking the longest nursing strike in state history. Thousands of nurses at two California hospitals went on strike for a week in May.

Talks took a sour turn at Mount Sinai, where the union, the New York State Nurses Association, said management had withdrawn from the bargaining table shortly after midnight and called off negotiations Friday.

“Shame on Mount Sinai,” Hagans said.

The hospital responded with a statement accusing the union of being “reckless” and “jeopardizing patient care.”

Mount Sinai said it offered a three-year series of wage increases totaling 19%, matching what the union recently achieved in tentative contract agreements reached with some other hospitals.

Cartwright said talks stalled as management tried to move on to staffing and the union still wanted to discuss wages. He said management was ready to resume talks once the union was ready to address other issues.

Mount Sinai said it began canceling some elective surgeries, diverted most ambulances and transferred some patients, including newborns in intensive care, from its flagship hospital and two affiliates, Mount Sinai West and Mount Sinai Morningside. Each has around 500 beds.

Cartwright said the flagship was “heartbroken” to have to transfer patients, particularly infants, but would ensure proper care for them and any remaining patients.

Negotiations also continued at Montefiore and the approximately 850-bed BronxCare Health System, while Flushing Hospital Medical Center reached a tentative agreement with nurses late Friday. Spokesmen for the union and for Flushing Hospital, a 300-bed facility in Queens, confirmed the deal. The union said it included staffing increases in addition to the same increases as the other tentative contracts.

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Spokespersons for Montefiore and BronxCare had no immediate comment Friday.

BronxCare said Thursday it was confident of reaching an agreement, while Montefiore Senior Vice President Joe Solmonese said the nurses were turning down a “generous” offer. He said it mirrored increases the union had agreed to elsewhere, while adding 78 more ER nurses and making other increases in wages, benefits and staffing.

On December 30, one day before their contracts were to expire, the nurses gave 10 days notice. from an intentional hit. Such notice is legally required to give hospitals time to line up temporary replacements.

A large medical center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, reached a tentative agreement with the union the next day. Maimonides and the University of Richmond Medical Centers reached tentative agreements Wednesday. The union said Maimonides nurses voted Friday to ratify their agreement, which Hagans called “the best contract we’ve ever had.”

Nurses are pushing to commit to what they consider to be standard staffing levels, such as having at least one nurse for each of the sickest patients in intensive care and one nurse for about four patients in a typical medical-surgical unit. .

Meanwhile, negotiations are also underway with four private Brooklyn hospitals. The nurses have yet to authorize a strike, though votes are underway, Hagans said.