7,000 nurses strike at 2 New York City hospitals

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More than 7,000 nurses at two major New York hospital systems walked out after talks broke down early Monday, digging into staffing and workloads they argue have left their ranks overwhelmed by the pandemic and beyond.

Last-minute talks to avoid a strike at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx failed after union negotiators walked out after 1 a.m., Mount Sinai spokeswoman Lucia Lee said. The New York State Nurses Association rejected a proposal by New York Gov. Cathy Hochul (D) to take the dispute to binding arbitration.

Representatives from both hospitals said the union had rejected a nearly 20 percent pay increase that nurses at peer organizations had accepted in previous bargaining talks.

In a statement, New York Mayor Eric Adams (D) insisted that all parties “remain at the negotiating table for however long it takes to reach a voluntary agreement.”

The strike comes as North East faces a potential wave of Covid-19 cases generated by XBB. 1.5 variant, part of the omicron variant that causes an increase in infections after the 2021-22 holiday season. Infections of the new variant have jumped from 2 percent of U.S. cases in early December to more than 27 percent in the first week of January. Assessments By the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 70 percent of cases in the Northeast are believed to be XBB. 1.5 In New York, the number of hospitalizations related to Covid-19 increased by 4 percent in the past week, according to the CDC. Deaths have increased by 27 percent in the last day.

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The new variant XBB.1.5 is still ‘highly transmissible’, fueling the Covid wave

Nurses unions across the country have been on strike since the pandemic broke out in 2020, which they argue is disrupting patient care and putting healthcare professionals in harm’s way.

More than 400 nurses walked off the job A Chicago hospital Jan. On the 3rd, a three-day strike exacerbated staff shortages after retrenchment. Nurses Oakland and Berkeley, California., a five-day strike starting on Christmas Eve. Another 400 healthcare workers – including nursing assistants, surgical technicians, pharmacists, dieticians and laboratory assistants – began a five-day strike. Marina del Rey, California.., on December 12, similar concerns.

New York nurses reached agreements with seven other hospitals around a common bargaining framework. They will receive a 20 percent salary increase over three years, and hospitals have agreed to higher staffing standards.

“From [New York City] “Four months ago nurses began negotiating our contracts, and we’ve said our number one issue is a chronic staffing crisis that harms patient care,” Nancy Hagens, president of the New York State Nurses Association, told reporters Friday. “Safe staffing means having enough nurses to provide safe, quality care to every patient. It’s an issue our employers have ignored, made excuses for, and fought against.

Nurses decided to “walk away from patient bedsides,” Montefiore said in the statement, “instilling fear and uncertainty throughout our community.”

“Our first priority is the safety of our patients. We are prepared to minimize disruption and encourage Mount Sinai nurses to continue to provide world-class care despite NYSNA’s strike,” Mount Sinai spokeswoman Lee said in a statement.

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In a Twitter post, the union said patients were visiting the hospital system.Our strike line is not crossed.” It invited patients to join demonstrations after receiving care.

“Nurses have been through hell and back for their patients,” Rep. Jamal Bowman (DNY) said in a statement. “They’ve already fought unimaginable battles to keep us healthy and alive, and they don’t have to keep fighting. Safe staffing ratios and healthy conditions are common in every hospital.

The US health care system is already facing a nursing shortage. From 2020 to 2021, the number of registered nurses in the country fell by 100,000, according to an April study. Published in the journal Health Affairs.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing found that nursing schools will turn away 91,938 applicants to nursing programs in 2021 due to a lack of qualified instructors.

The shortage could get worse: According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the average age of a registered nurse is 52. By comparison, it’s 42 years younger for the rest of the U.S. workforce, according to federal data. That suggests a looming retirement boom among nurses, experts say, unless the health care workforce ramps up recruitment or retention efforts.

Fenit Nirappil And Lauren Weber contributed to this report.

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