Striking nurses at two major New York hospitals reach agreement to return to work

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Two New York City hospitals have reached a tentative contract agreement with thousands of striking nurses that ends this week’s walkout that disrupted patient care, officials announced Thursday.

The nurses, represented by the New York State Nurses Association, walked out early Monday after negotiations with management at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx failed. Each has more than 1,000 beds and 3,500 or more unionized nurses.

Nurses at both hospitals were due to return to work Thursday morning, the union said.

The union has stressed staffing levels as a key concern, saying nurses who worked during the grueling peak of the coronavirus pandemic are too burned out because there are too many open positions. Nurses say they have had to work overtime, handle twice as many patients as they should, and skip meals and even go to the bathroom.

The agreements with both hospitals include concrete and enforceable staffing ratios, the union said. The agreement with Montefiore also included what the union described as community health improvements and nurse-student partnerships to recruit local Bronx nurses.

Protesters march in the streets around Montefiore Medical Center during a nursing strike in the Bronx, New York, on Wednesday. John Minchillo/AP

“Through our unity and putting everything on the line, we obtained safe and enforceable staffing ratios at both Montefiore and Mount Sinai, where nurses went on strike over patient care,” said NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, it’s a statement. “Today we can go back to work with our heads held high, knowing that our victory means safer care for our patients and more sustainable jobs for our profession.”

Private, nonprofit hospitals say they have been dealing with a widespread nursing shortage that worsened with the pandemic.

“Our bargaining team has been working around the clock with NYSNA leadership to reach an agreement,” Montefiore said in a statement. “From the beginning, we came to the table committed to negotiating in good faith and addressing the issues that were top of mind for our nursing staff.”

The hospital said it focused on ensuring nurses had «the best possible work environment, with significant pay and benefit improvements» through the agreement with the union.

“We know this strike affected everyone, not just our nurses, and we are committed to reaching a resolution as soon as possible to minimize disruption to patient care,” the hospital said.

Mount Sinai said in a statement that it was pleased to have reached a tentative agreement and that the strike was over.

“Our proposed settlement is similar to those between NYSNA and eight other New York City hospitals. It is fair and responsible, and it puts patients first,” Mount Sinai Health System said.

Several other private hospitals around the city. reached agreements with the union as the strike deadline approached. The agreements included increases totaling 19% over three years.

Mount Sinai and Montefiore said before the strike that they had offered the same wage increases.

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