Around 7,000 nurses at two of NYC’s largest hospitals are ready to go on strike

Nurses at two of New York City’s largest hospitals were set to go on strike Monday in a dispute over pay and staffing levels after a weekend of negotiations that have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract.

The outbreak, set to begin at 6 a.m., will involve as many as 3,600 nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and 3,500 at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

The New York State Nurses Association, which represents the workers, said they were forced to take the drastic step because of chronic understaffing that leaves nurses caring for too many patients.

“Nurses do not want to strike. Bosses have pushed us to strike by refusing to seriously consider our proposals to address the desperate crisis of unsafe staffing that is harming our patients,” the union said in a statement late Sunday.

Hospitals have prepared for a walkout by transferring patients, diverting ambulances to other institutions, postponing non-urgent medical procedures and making sure to bring in substitutes.

Gov. Kathy Hochul urged the union and the hospitals late Sunday to take their dispute to binding arbitration.

Montefiore’s administration said in a statement that it was willing to let an arbitrator decide the contract “as a means to reach an equitable outcome.”

The union did not immediately accept the proposal. In a statement, it said Hochul, a Democrat, “should listen to the front lines COVID nurse heroes and respect our federally protected labor and collective bargaining rights.”

Montefiore and Mount Sinai are the last of a group of hospitals whose contracts with the union expired at the same time. The nurses’ union had initially warned that it would hit them all at once – a potential disaster even in a city with as many hospitals as New York.

But one by one, the other hospitals entered into agreements with the union as the deadline approached.

Nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital ratified an agreement Saturday that will give them raises of 7%, 6% and 5% over the next three years, while increasing staffing. That agreement, which covers 4,000 nurses, has been seen as a template for negotiations with other hospital systems.

Nurses at two facilities in the Mount Sinai system also tentatively agreed to contracts Sunday. But negotiations continued at the system’s flagship hospital on Manhattan’s East Side.

Mount Sinai’s administration said in a statement that the union’s focus on staffing-to-patient ratios “ignores the progress we’ve made to attract and hire more new nurses, despite a global health care worker shortage affecting hospitals across the country.”

If the nurses strike, patients are likely to see disruptions in care such as emergency room visits and births.

Mount Sinai moved babies from the neonatal intensive care unit, CBS New York reports.

The station said the tense situation has left patients and their families feeling anxious.

“They don’t need this kind of distraction,” Sabrena Geborde, the wife of a patient at Mount Sinai, told CBS New York.

Geborde came to Mount Sinai last week with her husband, Troy, who has end-stage ALS.

“My husband almost went into cardiac arrest and when we got here the nurses and doctors did an amazing job on him,” Geborde said.

The potential strike forced their regular hospital to divert patients, which is how they ended up at Mount Sinai.

“It’s something you never expect to have to deal with, and to have to think about, deal with it, he’s clinging. He’s clinging to life as we speak,” Geborde said, “and they’re saving my husband’s life in there and they’re in right now helping him.”

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