A three-day nurses’ strike that disrupted patient care and services at two major New York hospitals ended early Thursday after a tentative deal was reached the night before, bringing more than 7,000 nurses back to work.
Many of the nurses who first quit their jobs on Monday morning at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx returned to caring for patients at dawn on Thursday following a contract between the two hospitals and the New York State Nurses Association. sought to improve the nurse-to-patient ratio for workers stretched to breaking point after the COVID pandemic led to layoffs at hospitals across the city.
“Through our unity and putting everything at stake, we have achieved a mandatory safe workforce ratio both at Montefiore and at Mount Sinai, where nurses have gone on strike to care for patients,” NYSNA President Nancy Hagans said in a statement. “Today we can return to work with our heads held high, knowing that our victory means safer care for our patients and more stable jobs for our profession.”
Mount Sinai and Montefiore were the only two hospitals to go on strike after several other private city hospitals struck agreements with NYSNA last week. The agreements provided for a 19% pay increase over three years.
The strikes at these hospitals began two weeks ago when nurses delivered notices of a 10-day strike to eight hospitals in five districts. Now all of them, including the New York-Presbyterian, Maimonides Medical Center, University of Richmond Medical Center, BronxCare, Flushing Hospital, and the Morningside and West facilities at Mount Sinai, have reached ratified or provisional agreements with the union. Labor tensions, now easing, had been brewing for years and began to boil over during the pandemic as nurses became more open about their concerns about understaffing and poor working conditions.
“The agreement we are proposing is similar to the agreement between NYSNA and eight other hospitals in New York. This is fair and responsible and puts patients first,” the Mount Sinai Health System said in a statement Thursday.
Montefiore said the deal would provide “better working conditions with significant pay and benefit increases.”
“We know this strike has affected everyone, not just our nurses, and we were keen to come to a resolution as soon as possible to minimize disruption to patient care,” the hospital said.
Montefiore President and CEO Dr Philip Ozua noted that the preliminary deal includes “a 19% pay increase, benefits that match or exceed those of our peers, more than 170 new nursing positions and a generous recruitment and retention plan.” .
“We are grateful for the dedication and dedication of our nurses who have worked under very difficult conditions over the past few years.” Ozua said.
Although the deals are preliminary and must be ratified by the NYSNA, they were enough to end both strikes. The ratification process is due to start next week.
On Thursday, Hagans said the preliminary three-year agreement with Mount Sinai contains “strong” new language on nurse-to-patient ratio enforcement, and maintains benefits and raises wages by more than 19% over three years.
In Montefiore, she said, the union secured higher wages and improved staffing in the hospital’s emergency department, as well as compliance with staffing regulations, including financial penalties.
“The language of enforcement was very important to our members because staffing might look great on paper, but if you don’t have enforcement, it’s not going anywhere,” she said.
Hagans also touted Montefiore’s commitment to reopen closed units and refurbish the emergency room to better accommodate patients who had to stay in hallways due to lack of space.
“No more beds in the hallway,” she said. “We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: nurses care about our communities. This historic contract will bring respect to our nurses and our patients.”
The nurses’ union also announced on Thursday that a strike had been averted at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, where nurses recently delivered a 12-day strike notice to management. Nurses and Wyckoff management reached a tentative deal on Wednesday evening, removing the threat of a strike.
The management of the Brooklyn Hospital Center and the New York State Nurses Association also reached a preliminary agreement.
The strike, described by Hagans as “historic”, attracted nationwide attention, with union leaders and elected officials such as Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul expressing their support for the nurses.
Gov. Hochul, who was ready to welcome returning nurses to Mount Sinai on Thursday, said the three-year contract gives nurses a “deserved 19% pay raise. Also better benefits, higher wages for graduates and, again, a work environment that allows them to focus on patient care.”
With Jessica Schladebeck