Nurses at one of Westchester’s largest hospitals went on strike following more than a year of attempting to negotiate a new contract with little progress.
Beginning at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1, nurses at Montefiore New Rochelle officially started striking as the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) demands the hospital hire more nurses and improve safe staffing requirements.
“We were hoping to avoid an (Unfair Labor Practice) strike on Dec. 1 and 2, but it’s clear that Montefiore does not want us to have a voice in patient safety,” NYSNA's leader in New Rochelle, Kathy Santioemma said.
“After so many bargaining sessions, their position on safe staffing still has not changed—they’re not willing to spend a dime to ensure we have enough nurses to safely care for our community.”
According to Montefiore officials, they’ve been negotiating in good faith for 18 months, have offered pay raises exceeding 7 percent, tuition reimbursement, and funding for their union pension.
“Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital will remain open but will enact contingency plans, including relocating patients to other facilities to ensure their safety,” Marcos Crespo, the hospital’s senior vice president of community affairs, said in a statement.
“They want the power to dictate staffing assignments and hand out plum positions to their friends," Crespo added. "While Montefiore believes the decisions on how to treat patients and make these assignments rest not with any one group alone, but with the entire team caring for the patient."
The strike comes as the county, state, and country begin bracing for the fallout of new COVID-19 cases that are expected to come as a result of families and friends celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday last week.
“I’ve seen the letters that Montefiore has given to patients, and I heard their plan for staffing the strike,” Emergency Room nurse Shalon Mathews said.
“It’s not a real plan. What they are doing is unprofessional, uncaring, and so unsafe. There’s nowhere for some of these patients to go, and the nurse-to-patient staffing ratios are dangerously high already.”
Matthews added that they believe the hospital is not adequately prepared for the second wave of the virus as new COVID-19 cases continue to climb.
“Montefiore has not adequately prepared for the second wave of COVID with PPE and basic health and safety protocols,” Matthews said. “It is clear management has not prepared for this strike, either. They are choosing to endanger patients and refuse care for our community, instead of negotiating with nurses for a fair contract.
“As someone who cares for patients every day, I feel so disappointed in my employer right now.”
The strike began at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, and will continue through 7 p.m. on Wednesday night. Monday was the last scheduled bargaining session for the nurses to negotiate a new contract.
“All hell is breaking loose at the hospital, and nurses have not even gone out on strike yet,” Santioemma said over the holiday weekend. “The ICU is full and traveler nurses are not coming in to help. Med-Surg nurses are taking on 15 patients, when they should have five or six.
“Progressive care nurses are handling six or seven patients, instead of four. How can Montefiore treat patients this way?”
“The nurses are united and ready to do whatever it takes for safe patient care,” Santioemma added. “We'll be outside the hospital letting our patients know just that—beginning Dec. 1.”
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