Thousands of members of the New York State Nurses Association gathered outside hospitals in Manhattan and the Bronx in protest against understaffing and unsafe conditions for patients, problems that the union claims have been ignored by hospital administration.
“It is clear that something must be done, including the implementation of Safe staffing ratios to ensure every patient gets the care they need and deserve,” the nurses union said in a statement. “NYSNA [Registered Nurses] refused to be silenced on this issue, despite hospital attempts to stop RNs from expressing our views and hospital failure to provide us all the information we requested on staffing.”
According to the union, over 20,000 nurses at New York Presbyterian, three Mount Sinai and two Montefiore Medical Center hospitals submitted around 3,800 complaints “to highlight severe problems in their facilities.” One such report complained of a shift in a pediatric care center with only six nurses to look after sixty-eight patients, leading to wait times as long as six hours.
“We don’t have the time, not only to take care of them properly, but to do things like comfort a patient who is dying, or deal with the family with a family member with a terrible illness,” said NYSNA president Judy Sheridan Gonzalez.
Though the union and the hospital are currently negotiating a new contract, as the previous one expired on December 31, the patient-nurse ratio has been a point of conflict, and nurses aren’t satisfied with how the discussion is going.
“I’m ready to strike,” Michelle Gonzalez, a nurse in the intensive care unit at Montefiore, told LaborNotes. “I won’t just be an unquestioning part of a machine. I will stop the machine if that is what it takes to win better standards for my patients.”
Hospital representatives are more optimistic about contract negotiations, maintaining that the shifts officially complained about by the nurses union make up about 0.1 percent of all scheduled shifts in 2018.
“We continue to bargain in good faith to reach agreement with nurses on an economic package that would increase salaries and preserve and fully fund health and pension benefits,” a hospital spokesman told Crain’s New York.
NYSNA represents over 42,000 registered nurses across New York State, with 13,000 in New York City alone. A strike could mean serious problems for New York’s hospitals, as the New York Professional Nurses Union has come out in support of their fellow organization.
The nurses’ demonstrations on Wednesday were “informational” pickets–if the union votes to strike, they need to notify hospitals ten days in advance.