Nurses at New York-Presbyterian Hospital have ratified a contract, with tentative agreements reached at several other city medical centers ahead of a strike set to begin on Monday. Thousands of nurses at three other hospitals are still planning to walk out if they can’t reach agreements with management.
At a virtual press briefing on Saturday morning, New York State Nurses Association President Nancy Hagans said the group's main concern is low staffing levels, which she said put patients in danger.
"We are urging those three hospitals to go back to the table and negotiate in good faith and provide safe patient-nurse ratios," she said.
The nurses are also calling for pay raises to keep up with the cost of living, along with improvements to their health insurance packages.
Members of the nurses union at multiple hospitals and health systems throughout the city announced their plans to strike on Dec. 30 if administrators didn’t meet their demands. Since then, nurses have reached preliminary deals at Richmond University Medical Center, Flushing Hospital Medical Center, BronxCare and the Brooklyn Hospital Center, in addition to newly ratified contracts at Maimonides Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian. Administrators at those hospitals agreed to pay raises and staffing increases.
No agreements have been reached at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and the Mount Sinai West and Morningside campuses.
A spokesperson for Montefiore did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Lucia Lee, a spokesperson for Mount Sinai, said the hospital system is continuing to negotiate and that it has agreed to pay increases.
“Mount Sinai is dismayed by NYSNA’s reckless actions,” the hospital system said in a statement. “The union is jeopardizing patients’ care, and it’s forcing valued Mount Sinai nurses to sacrifice their dedication to patient care and their own livelihoods.”
The Mount Sinai hospital system has started to redirect ambulances and cancel some elective surgeries in anticipation of a strike. It has also been transferring some patients at the affected campuses to other hospitals, including babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Hagan said the hospital was “stirring fears” by transferring NICU patients and that union members at Mount Sinai were “outraged by these tactics.” She said nurses have already been forced to jeopardize their neonatal patients’ safety by caring for twice as many babies as they’re supposed to.
Mount Sinai's Chief Nursing Officer Fran Cartwright said there have been efforts to address understaffing in the NICU and other departments.
“We put in an overtime bonus,” she said. “We put in a lot of travelers, the agency nurses, and we were actually able to stabilize the staffing there. We're not at 100%.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Friday that her office has been speaking regularly with nurses and hospital administrators to try to resolve their disagreements without a disruption to health care services in New York City.
“My full expectation is this will be resolved, because there is no alternative,” she said. “We need to make sure that the people of New York are taken care of.”
If union members at the three remaining hospitals don’t agree to contracts by 6 a.m. Monday, as many as 8,700 nurses could stay home from work. Nurses at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center have also said they plan to strike on Jan. 17 if they can’t agree on a new contract.
Jon Campbell contributed reporting.