New year, New York, new strike

credits: New York Times

credits: New York Times

The new year is known to bring in new opportunities and experiences; however, New York might not have been expecting 2023 to ring in thousands of nurses taking part in a strike at two of their biggest hospitals. Staffing levels and wages have caused nurses to stage this walkout in hopes for negotiating a treaty, with their protest officially beginning on Jan. 9, 2023.  

Due to understaffing, nurses have been stretched thin to take care of more patients than safely possible. Healthcare workers made proposals to address this issue but felt that their bosses were refusing to take them into serious consideration, pushing them to strike. The COVID-19 pandemic left many nurses burnt out, leaving large gaps in the healthcare positions. While highlighted that this was a last resort, more than 7,000 nurses participated in the walkout at Montefiore Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital.  

“The ratio has gone from one nurse for every four patients to one for every six, which is a safety problem for the department’s patients who are often confused or in altered mental states and at a high risk of falling,” Doreen Chulon, a nurse in Montefiore’s neurology department, said in a CNN article. 

To prep for the walkout, the hospitals transferred patients, brought in temporary staffing, pushed back non-emergency procedures, and directed ambulances to other institutions. The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), which represents thousands of nurses and is the union behind the strike, decided to give the hospitals a 10-day notice and continue negotiating a contract until the time expired. Governor Kathy Hochul pushed for the union to consider taking the issue in front of a neutral party on Sunday, Jan. 8. The talks broke off late that night, and the association announced the strike would begin at 6 a.m. the following morning. 

“After bargaining late into the night at Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospital yesterday, no tentative agreements were reached. Today, more than 7,000 nurses at two hospitals are on strike for fair contracts that improve patient care,” the NYSNA said in a statement. 

The nurses spent three days on the picket line, putting emphasis on the staffing levels over wage. The NYSNA reached a deal with the two hospitals early Thursday morning, Jan. 12. The new consensus is said to include a 19% pay increase across three years, 170 new nursing positions, significantly more nurses in the Emergency Room, and a lifetime health coverage for those eligible for retirement. The deal will be finalized after the nurses vote. Healthcare staff returned to shifts at 7 a.m. with all procedures resuming normally.  

“I am very familiar with the mistreatment and staffing problems nurses face. They are often expected to work long hours in a physically and mentally demanding job for little pay. This can cause stress and burnout and lead to more problems between nurses and the hospitals, so I hope that the new deal will help relieve some of this,” Shelby Rice, junior, said. 

Many are critical that the union went on strike even though eight other hospitals accepted the original offers to ease nurse demands; however, the hospitals remained open and functional throughout the walkout, and the association believes the outcome will help nurses and patient care quality. For more information, visit here.