(NEW YORK) — More than 7,000 nurses at two hospitals in New York City went on strike early Monday morning demanding better pay, better working conditions and more staffing.
The strike began at 6 a.m. after nurses at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Harlem failed to reach an agreement with hospital administration during a bargaining session Sunday night, according to the New York State Nurses’ Association.
“These nurses are dedicated professionals who provide quality patient care under unimaginable conditions day in and day out that were exacerbated by the pandemic,” Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, a labor union, said in a statement Monday. “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.”
“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,” the statement continued.
Strikes are occurring at three locations in the Bronx and one location in Manhattan and will occur until 7 p.m.
In a statement, Montefiore Medical Center said it offered a 19.1% compounded wage increase and promised to create more than 170 new nursing positions ahead of the strike.
“We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognizing that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community,” the statement read.
Separately, Philip Ozuah, president of Montefiore Hospital, wrote a memo to staff members claiming the strike was unnecessary because all parties are allegedly near a final agreement. He added that the nurses turned down an offer that “exceeded the terms already agreed to at the wealthiest of our peer institutions”.
Mount Sinai told ABC News in a statement it also offered a 19.1% increased wage proposal but that nurses rejected the offer.
“Our first priority is the safety of our patients. We’re prepared to minimize disruption, and we encourage Mount Sinai nurses to continue providing the world-class care they’re known for, in spite of NYSNA’s strike,” Mount Sinai officials said.
During a press conference Monday afternoon, Nancy Hagans, president of the NYSNA said the current contract does not address nurse/patient ratios — which they are calling for and has led to stalled negotiations. She also claimed hospitals did not want to be held “accountable.”
Mount Sinai said it was preparing for the strike by “diverting a majority of ambulances,” starting “to cancel some elective surgeries … perform emergency surgery only,” “starting to transfer patients” to other hospitals and medical centers, and “working to safely discharge as many patients as appropriate,” according to an internal memo obtained by New York ABC station WABC-TV.
Gov. Kathy Hochul called for binding arbitration Sunday night to avert a strike, but union officials did not accept the proposal.
“Gov. Hochul should listen to frontline Covid nurse heroes and respect our federally protected labor and collective bargaining rights,” NYSNA said in a statement. “Nurses don’t want to strike. Bosses have pushed us to strike by refusing to seriously consider our proposals to address the desperate crisis of unsafe staffing that harms our patients.”
The NYSNA also urged New Yorkers to not be fearful or concerned about seeking medical care due to the shrike.
“To all of our patients, to all New Yorkers, we want to be absolutely clear: If you are sick, please do not delay getting medical care, regardless of whether we are on strike,” the organization tweeted. “In fact, we invite you to come join us on the strike line after you’ve gotten the care you need.”
The New York State Department of Health said it’s “working closely with affected hospitals to ensure the health and safety of patients as the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) strikes proceed at Mount Sinai and Montefiore Hospitals.” The department said it was continuing to monitor the safety and staffing of patients.
ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik and Eric Strauss contributed to this report.
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