NEW YORK (WABC) -- Registered nurses at three New York City hospital systems are threatening to strike, claiming that staffing shortages put patients at risk and medical centers have ignored their complaints.
Nurses rallied at a Midtown hotel Thursday morning to announce a strike authorization vote.
The strike would affect more than 10,000 nurses at Mt. Sinai, NewYork-Presbyterian, and Montefiore. These nurses have reportedly worked without a contract since December.
"Year after year, protest after protest, these hospital administrators ignore us. What choice do we have?" said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, a nurse at Montefiore Hospital and president of NYSNA.
The strike is a response to conditions inside hospitals and staffing shortages, and last year, around 20,000 nurses filed roughly 4,000 complaints, according to the New York State Nurses Association.
Nurses said because of these staffing shortages, patients are mistreated, nurses are taking care of people they aren't trained to care for, and nurses routinely miss breaks "at an alarming rate."
For example, one complaint reported that patients were left on stretchers in hallways with days at a time with no privacy due to lack of staff and space. The complaints also noted that only three on-duty registered nurses have cared for 44 babies in the newborn intensive care unit at a time.
"In a medical unit, four patients is really the limit for safety. Some of us are taking care of seven, eight, nine, and covering when other people go on a break, 18 patients, 19 patients, and in the emergency room, the numbers are even higher," Sheridan-Gonzalez said.
In response to the strike, the NYC Hospital Alliance released the following statement:
"Union leadership is engaged in political brinksmanship that would force nurses to abandon patients at their bedsides. Unfortunately, leadership seems more concerned with advancing a political agenda than they are with reaching an agreement that is fair, reasonable, and responsible for all parties.
We respect our NYSNA nurses who are essential to helping deliver high-quality healthcare. It is simply not true that staffing levels are unsafe-the fact is that our hospitals are nationally recognized for providing the best patient care and excellence in healthcare outcomes.
We have been clear with Union leadership that if they call a strike, we will be required to move forward with our plans to bring in trained and qualified replacement nurses to help care for patients.
Rigid, mandated staffing ratios would lower the quality of patient care by overriding the professional judgment of nurses and healthcare experts. We support a patient-first approach to staffing that is built on tailored, flexible staffing plans-designed by experienced nurses-that have proven to best meet the individual and ever-changing needs of patients."
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Registered nurses at 3 New York City hospital systems threaten to strike