On the third day of their ongoing strike, approximately 7,000 nurses moved closer to reaching a deal on a new contract at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, while previously stalled negotiations resumed with management at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.
The stakes are mounting, with those currently working in the affected facilities reporting that the hospitals are struggling to staff some units and patient care is suffering. Montefiore received a cease-and-desist letter Tuesday from 1199SEIU after the medical center began assigning licensed practical nurses with that union to fill in for members of the New York State Nurses Association who are on strike, Politico reported.
“[Licensed practical nurses] should not be told to work outside their scope of practice or in hospital and emergency settings they are unaccustomed to, potentially jeopardizing patient care or their professional licenses,” the health care union 1199SEIU said in a statement. “At difficult times like these, we must always strike a tender balance to fully protect workers’ rights while also ensuring that patients continue to receive the lifesaving care they need.”
Montefiore reps declined to comment.
But striking nurses said they were already working in conditions that put patients at risk before they walked off the job and will not return until their staffing demands are met.
At a press conference outside of Montefiore Wednesday, Judy Gonzalez, the past president of NYSNA and an emergency room nurse at the hospital, said a contract agreement was in sight.
“We’re this close. We’re inches away and we really need to get back inside because our patients need us,” Gonzalez said.
She said nurses and management are still negotiating over the final staffing ratios, including for labor and delivery nurses, as well as mechanisms for enforcing staffing standards. Nurses are also pushing for Montefiore Medical Center to commit to no longer placing patients in hallways.
“Montefiore said they agree they’d like to fix these things, but we have to find them the money, “ Gonzalez said to the sound of boos from the crowd of picketing nurses.
Montefiore has highlighted its financial troubles amid the contentious contract negotiations. The health system lost more than $117 million on operations alone in the first nine months of 2022, according to financial statements.
On Wednesday, Montefiore representatives shared some of the latest offers it had put on the table, including a commitment to add 115 nurses in its emergency rooms and 11 in its labor and delivery departments. The hospital is offering to establish average staffing ratios in emergency departments and allow an arbitrator to step in if staffing commitments are violated.
Montefiore is also offering perks related to recruiting and retaining nurses, such as tuition relief for participants in a student nurse program.
NYSNA has not commented on the current offer or elaborated on which specific demands are still not being met.
Neither NYSNA nor Mount Sinai would comment on the status of negotiations on Wednesday, except to say that talks have resumed after breaking down the night before the strike began.
At Mount Sinai, staffing ratios are also a sticking point. Both Mount Sinai and Montefiore have offered compensation packages that include an 18% raise over three years, which is similar to what was offered by other hospitals that have reached deals in recent days.
Mount Sinai Morningside and West are the latest hospitals to vote to ratify new contracts.
Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn issued a strike notice for Jan. 17 if nurses and management fail to reach a contract deal there. NYSNA would not provide an update on the status of negotiations there.