Nurses strike in NYC demanding better working conditions and solutions to staffing shortage

“What’s going on today is that these work environment challenges have been predating COVID-19, and nurses have been experiencing many of these challenges for decades."

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Image Credit: ABC News

Nurses in New York City are on the fourth day of their strike. Contract negotiations at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx has more than 7,000 nurses taking to the streets to demand better working conditions and a solution to the staffing shortage.

Both hospitals have hundreds of open positions causing the ratio of nurses to patients to be inadequate, the nurses on strike said.

“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 New York State Nurses Association said in a statement.

Nurses in both hospitals talk of “overcrowded hallways, caring for over a dozen patients at once, 12 to 14-hour shifts, and burnout from the pandemic,” Causes.com reported.

“What’s going on today is that these work environment challenges have been predating COVID-19, and nurses have been experiencing many of these challenges for decades,” Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, President of the American Nurses Association, said. “And the current strain of COVID-19 and other public health emergencies have only worsened many of these existing challenges and issues.” 

In 2022, 5,000 nurses went on strike in Minnesota and 2,000 mental health workers walked off the job in California and Hawaii, Causes.com reported. Thirty-five percent of the nationwide healthcare strike last year consisted of nurses who were all demanding a solution to staffing, CNN reported. 

While the NYC hospitals said they are doing their part to better working conditions and hire more nurses, they both blamed the union saying it wanted the money that they would used to implement a “robust” staffing enforcement plan to be used toward raises for the existing nurses. But the union denied this claim.

Many experts in healthcare administration believe hospitals aren’t increasing its staff of nurses because it comes down to cost.

“Labor is the main expense in health care, so how do you make money?,” Janette Dill, professor of health policy and management at the University of Minnesota, said. “You squeeze your labor costs. Your nursing workforce is your biggest workforce.”

Many believe the shortage is “a national workforce crisis” as the U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics estimated that 275,000 nurses are needed nationwide this decade. And some predict the staffing shortage will only get worse.

“A few years ago we estimated that by 2025 there would be a shortage of 1 million nurses nationwide…,” Dr. Marcus Schabacker, CEO of ECRI, a healthcare nonprofit, said. “Unfortunately, there’s not a short-term fix for this issue.”

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