Members of the New York State Nurses Association delivered an official 10-day notice of intent to strike Monday at Mount Sinai, Montefiore and New York Presbyterian hospitals.
The strike notice affects more than 10,000 nurses at the three hospitals systems, where there are currently contract talks underway. The nurses have reportedly worked without a contract since December, and roughly 30 bargaining sessions since October have so far yielded no progress.
"Registered nurses are not able to take any breaks," nurse Anthony Ciampa said. "We are doubling up on assignments. If a nurse calls out sick, it capsizes a unit and sends everything into chaos."
Watch: Nurses' union announces planned strike
Union officials say that because hospitals refuse to hire enough bedside caregivers, nurses are forced to care for up to 19 patients at once. And when that happens, they say patients suffer.
More than 97 percent of nurses across the three hospital systems voted earlier this month to authorize a strike, calling it a matter of life and death for patients.
"Oh, I think it's going to wake people up," said Robin Krinsky, with the Nurses Association. "I don't think they thought we had this much power, this much solidarity, but we do. And we're not going anywhere."
Nurses said because of 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.
"The patient doesn't get cleaned up," nurse Cherl Samuel said. "Patients don't get their bell answered. Sometimes we don't have no stats. We don't have no food, and the patient just suffers."
The NYC Hospital Alliance released the following statement:
"Our first priority is providing patients uninterrupted health care. We respect our NYSNA nurses and will continue to work to reach an agreement that is fair, reasonable, and responsible for all parties.
Despite our offer of significant wage increases, pension and health benefit funding, and an explicit offer to explore increased staffing, Union leadership has called on their nurses to walk away from patients' bedsides so they can advance their political agenda of mandating rigid, inflexible staffing ratios. Such ratios would take healthcare backward and impede our nation-leading hospitals' ability to provide the best patient care.
Rigid staffing ratios would lower patient care and drastically increase costs for not-for-profit hospitals-resulting in layoffs of other important members of patient care teams. We cannot agree to a staffing approach that would override the professional judgment of nurses and healthcare experts."
* More New York City news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
* Follow us on YouTube