Strike forces hospitals to redirect patients

After contract expirations, six of eight hospitals reach agreements, not Montefiore


Nurses left their patients’ bedsides on Monday morning at two major hospitals in New York City and took to the streets as they made good on a promise to strike after contract negotiations fell apart.

Three Montefiore campuses and Mount Sinai Hospital heard nurses’ voices as 7,000 wore the union colors and picketed in the streets seeking better patient care and wages.

“After bargaining late into the night at Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospital yesterday, no tentative agreements were reached,” said the New York State Nurse Association in a written statement early Monday.

Late on Sunday, talks between the two hospitals left no tentative agreements for fair contracts improving patient care. The New York State Nurses Association left the negotiating table shortly after 1 a.m. Monday

The strike began at 6 a.m. and continued throughout the day. The sounds of drums, trumpets, and a tambourine emanated from those striking outside the Moses campus on 111 E. 210th St., and onlookers from passing vehicles showed their support with horns honking.

During the first day of the strike, the nurses ordered a dozen pizza pies as they said they would be at Montefiore until 7.

Marva Waite, a medical-surgical nurse for 17 years at Montefiore, told The Riverdale Press she is not surprised that she and her colleagues are on strike today because this fight has been happening for years.

The strike follows years of nurses fighting for fair staffing and better working conditions at several city hospitals, especially after COVID-19. Their contract expired at the end of last year over staffing, wages, and health care benefits. Meanwhile, for the past two years, vacant nursing positions have gone unfilled.

Tentative deals have been made with Maimonides, BronxCare, Richmond University Medical Center, and Flushing Hospital Medical Center. Several of these negotiations lasted throughout the night until midnight Monday and over the weekend.

Mount Sinai Morningside and West reached an agreement on Sunday, avoiding a strike the following day.

New York Presbyterian ratified its contract on Saturday by increasing nursing staffing over the next three years. Staffing standards will be improved in the Milstein Emergency Department and staffing enforcement mechanisms. Health care and benefits, including retirees’ health and benefits, are looking to see increases over the contract’s three years.

Waite said staffing was always an issue, but it has worsened.

Montefiore has more than 700 vacant nursing positions, while before the strike, the hospital negotiated an additional 170 staffing positions and a 19.1 compounded wage increase. But the nurses say it is not about the money. It’s about staffing.

The medical center did not respond to comment regarding staff shortages.

Since the pandemic, Montefiore has approximately 3,500 nurses seeking better working conditions and higher pay.

Every morning, Waite starts with five patients; sometimes, towards the end of the day, she can be left with eight patients. The typical nurse/patient ratio is 1-to-5.

“1-to-5 is what it should be, but it’s not usually so,” she added.

A day prior to the strike, Gov. Kathy Hochul released a statement calling for binding arbitration and on the state health department to enforce nurse staffing levels.

Montefiore has agreed to Hochul’s request and said they are prepared to proceed with the process to meet an equitable outcome.

“We hope that NYSNA’s leadership accepts the governor’s proposal and rescinds their strike threat,” said the health system.

Waite shook her head while explaining that more of the elected officials need to speak to the nurses or for the nurses. Their silence is “deafening,” she said.

While there were several statements from assemblymen and congress members, including Jamaal Bowman, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz offered the following statement.

“Safe staffing saves lives,” Dinowitz said. “Our nurses put themselves on the frontlines to keep our communities safe, but they need tangible support from their hospitals in order to ensure that ourselves and our neighbors are receiving the highest possible quality of patient care. ”

Jamaal Bowman gave his support to the nurses.

“Nurses have been through hell and back for their patients. They already fought unimaginable fights to keep us healthy and alive, and they shouldn’t have to keep fighting. Safe staffing ratios and healthy conditions common in every hospital,” Bowman said.

The health department sent surveyors to the affected hospitals to ensure health care resources were maintained to meet the community’s needs.

“Staffing level requirements at affected facilities may be achieved by acquiring additional staff resources, reducing or postponing elective procedures, and transferring eligible patients to other hospitals within the regional hospital system, which has capacity,” the department said in an update.

Montefiore Moses campus has already begun to feel the disruption of health care services because of the missing nurses.

Non-medical surgeries were forced to be rescheduled. Appointments at their ambulatory locations will be postponed. Ambulances were needed to divert patients to other hospitals where the staff was available, including women in.

Loren Reigelhaupt, representative of Montefiore, told The Press negotiations resumed on Monday at 2 p.m. But the Montefiore chief executive and president Dr. Philip Ozuah expressed his disappointment surrounding the strike.

He found the strike “unnecessary” while the hospital’s offer exceeded the terms that were agreed on by the previous hospitals that one by one settled.

As of Jan. 4, the hospital offered an increase in IVF benefits of $12,000 for medical and another $12,000 for prescriptions.

Montefiore also offered 15 percent for float pool differential compared to New York Presbyterian’s tentative agreement on Jan. 1 of 10 percent.

The hospital has lost close to $300 million in operating profit, while Presbyterian has gained over $110 million, they said.

“I have directed our negotiating team to continue to engage with NYSNA and work towards a fair agreement. But it must be a fair agreement,” Ozuah said in a letter.

strike, Montefiore Medical Center, nurses, New York State Nurses Association, Marva Waite, Jamaal Bowman, Jeffrey Dinowitz, Mount Sinai Morningside, New York Presbyterian, Kathy Hochul, Loren Reigelhaupt, Dr. Philip Ozuah