By Jack Phillips
“After bargaining late into the night at Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospital yesterday, no tentative agreements were reached,” the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said in a statement. “Today, more than 7,000 nurses at two hospitals are on strike for fair contracts that improve patient care.”
A flyer that was circulating online said that there would be picket lines from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. ET at several hospitals, including Montefiore Moses, Montefiore Weiler, Montefiore Hutch, and Mount Sinai Hospital. Footage uploaded on social media shows nurses and others picketing at 6 a.m. at New York City hospitals.
A spokeswoman for Mount Sinai told news outlets that negotiations failed around 1 a.m. ET after the union rejected a 19.1 percent increase in wages that the hospital system had proposed.
“NYSNA leadership walked out of negotiations shortly after 1 a.m. ET, refusing to accept the exact same 19.1% increased wage offer agreed to by eight other hospitals, including two other Mount Sinai Health System campuses, and disregarding the governor’s solution to avoid a strike,” Lucia Lee, a spokeswoman for Mount Sinai, told CNN.
And Montefiore told news outlets it was “a sad day for New York City,” saying that the offer of 19.1 percent was the same that was offered by other institutions. “NYSNA’s leadership has decided to walk away from the bedsides of their patients,” the statement continued.
Mount Sinai’s Chief Nursing Officer, Frances Cartwright, was more critical of the strike, arguing that “vulnerable patients” and “defenseless little babies” are being harmed. “We can’t wait until Monday, we have to plan,” she told local media. “I sure am hoping for the best, but you have to plan for the worst.”
Cartwright was referring to an internal memo and reports that newborn infants would have to be transferred to other facilities during the strike owing to a lack of staff. According to local media, a memo also said that two Mount Sinai hospitals will only perform emergency surgeries, and those facilities will start to transfer and discharge “as many patients as appropriate.”
Matt Allen, the nursing union’s regional director, responded to the reports that neonatal babies are being transferred to other facilities. He claimed that “we’ve been sounding the alarm about how that’s not safe for our NICU patients, but Mount Sinai has failed to address this crisis.”
“It’s unconscionable that Mount Sinai refuses to address unsafe staffing in our NICU and other units of the hospital but is now stirring fears about our NICU babies in contract negotiations,” he added.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have said the city and state, respectively, are prepared to handle a nursing strike. A spokesperson for City Hall told news outlets over the weekend that it is planning to activate a situation room with state, local, and other officials.
“While New York City is prepared for a potential strike, we are hopeful that all parties keep working to reach a voluntary agreement,” Adams stated Sunday.
“My full expectation is that this will be resolved because there is no alternative,” Hochul recently told reporters. “We need to make sure that people in New York are taken care of.”
A spokesperson for Adams’s administration said the fire department has plans to reroute ambulances, while NYC Health + Hospitals will implement an emergency plan to deal with patients amid the staffing shortfall.
“We recognize the effect that a nurse strike would have on health care in our city and we are actively planning for different scenarios to minimize any impact to New Yorkers and ensure that the people of our city continue to receive care,” the City Hall spokesperson said in a statement to Politico. “We encourage all of the parties to remain at the bargaining table for however long it takes and work toward reaching a voluntary agreement. Our system will be prepared, in the event of a strike, to meet the challenges.”