The nurses from two city hospitals walked out on Monday morning as talks over contract changes fell through. The nurses taking part in the action are from the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.
As a result of the ongoing disputes, procedures and appointments had to be cancelled and re-booked in one of the hospitals.
The New York State Nurses Association released a statement which said that over 7,000 nurses are taking part in the walkout.
The Association’s President Nancy Hagan said that “enough is enough” as she spoke in front of Mount Sinai on Monday.
“What we are asking for it for safe staffing and quality care for patients. We don’t’ think we are asking for too much,” she said.
Like the NHS, the health care system in New York City is buckling under the pressure of a severe flu season and the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
New York City has also seen a rise in a respiratory syncytial virus, all of which is putting pressure on the relationship between nurses and their employers.
As nurses gathered outside both of the medical facilities in the city on Monday morning, they could be heard shouting: “Every patient is a VIP”.
In separate statements about the strike action, the hospitals said on Monday that they offered a 19.1 percent compounded wage increase to the nurses.
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Meanwhile, Montefiore Medical Center pledged that it would create over 170 new nursing positions.
It said: “We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognising that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community.”
Elective surgeries and procedures at Montefiore had to be rescheduled and appointments at ambulatory locations had to be postponed.
Sinai also said the majority of its outpatient appointments and surgeries are going ahead as planned.
Contract negotiations between the union and medical facilities in the city began four months ago, and new contracts or agreements had been made at seven other hospitals in the city.
The union revealed that on Sunday, nurses at Mount Sinai Morningside and West secured a tentative agreement on a new contract which would improve staffing standards and enforcement and increase wages over the next three years.
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Amid fears that the hospitals would not be able to give medical advice and treatment amid the walkout, the union encouraged those who are unwell to continue to seek care.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said that both he and his team were keeping a close eye on the situation and that the healthcare system can meet the challenges that may arise during the strikes.
Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO, a labour union, said on Monday: “These nurses are dedicated professionals who provide quality patient care under unimaginable conditions day in and day out that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Now they are faced with the added challenge of short staffing that has reached critical levels and could compromise their ability to provide the best quality care to their patients.”
The statement added: “It is time for the hospitals to treat these nurses fairly, with the dignity and respect they deserve, and to negotiate in good faith, quickly, to ensure nurses can get back to serving their communities by providing superior care to their patients.”