Nurses union reaches tentative agreements at 2 more NYC hospitals; Mount Sinai to cut services

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, January 5, 2023
Some NYC hospitals taking dramatic steps as nurses strike looms
The New York City nurses union has reached tentative contract agreements with Maimonides and Richmond University Medical Center. Sonia Rincón has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City hospitals are putting together extreme contingency plans as a potential nurse strike looms.

NYC nurses have reached tentative contract agreements with Maimonides and Richmond University Medical Center, the union announced Thursday.

A tentative deal was also previously reached with NewYork-Presbyterian, so negotiations continue with five more hospitals as nurses push for improved working conditions.

Those 10,000 nurses have given notice they will walk off the job Monday at those remaining hospitals if agreements are not reached.

"Striking is always a last resort, but nurses say they are prepared to strike if hospital administration gives them no other option to protect their patients and their practice," the union said in a statement over the weekend.

Officials said if nurses hit the picket lines Monday, facilities will divert a majority of ambulances, cancel some elective surgeries and transfer patients to other hospitals.

As a precaution, some of the remaining five hospitals are taking dramatic steps.

Mount Sinai West is one of four Mount Sinai campuses in the city taking those steps. Mount Sinai is still negotiating, but at the same time bracing for the impact of its nurses potentially striking.

Two of the three Mount Sinai hospitals will only perform emergency surgeries. The hospital will also begin to transfer and discharge "as many patients as appropriate."

"In addition, this sadly means transferring NICU babies outside the Mount Sinai Health System to ensure they get the care they so desperately need," a memo obtained by Eyewitness News read.

The New York State Nurses Association is urging the remaining five hospitals to reach new contracts, taking aim at one in particular, accusing it of paying its executives nearly $28 million in salaries, bonuses and perks at the height of the pandemic.

"If Montefiore can afford to pay its executives so much, they can hardly cry broke," said Nancy Hagans/RN, NYSNA President.

Montefiore is one of two major hospitals in the Bronx still negotiating as it gets down to the wire.

"The concern is if there is a strike, what will Montefiore and Bronx Care do to supplement the staff that is on strike," said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson. "So we are asking those questions, we are certainly working with the leadership of both hospitals to make sure that there is a plan."

Gibson says she's optimistic it won't come to that.

"Many of our nurses that serve our Bronx residents and families are women and women of color, so it's deeply personal to me as a woman and a woman of color," Gibson said. "And I want to make sure that the leadership recognizes not only their importance in practice, but certainly when it comes to contract negotiations."

Nurses maintain their biggest issue is working conditions -- nurse to patient ratios and staffing levels necessary to prevent the burnout that drives nurses away from the profession.

The ratio numbers they want vary by facility and department, but as an example they say right now nurses in Mount Sinai's neonatal ICU are caring for twice as many babies as they should be.

"That's not a safe nurse-to-patient radio right now, Mount Sinai, you need to do better," Hagans said.

Both Mount Sinai and Montefiore say their offers, similar to NewYork-Presbyterian's, were rejected. When asked why, the union said some hospitals have promised staff ratios without plans in the contracts on how to enforce them.

Earlier this week the union reached a tentative agreement with New York-Presbyterian Hospitals.

The union congratulated its members at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital on reaching a tentative agreement on what it called "a fair contract" hours before their contract expired.

The hospital said it was pleased to have reached a tentative agreement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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