Thousands of nurses at two New York City hospitals ended a three-day strike Thursday after reaching a tentative contract agreement that union officials said will relieve chronic short staffing and boost pay by 19% over three years. Nurses began returning to work Thursday morning at Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center, per the AP. Each of the privately owned, nonprofit hospitals has over 1,000 beds and 3,500 or more union nurses, represented by the New York State Nurses Association. Nurses are set to vote next week on ratifying the tentative deals, which union President Nancy Hagans called “truly groundbreaking.”
The walkout began early Monday and prompted the hospitals to postpone non-emergency surgeries, tell many ambulances to go elsewhere, and transfer some patients, including some intensive-care infants at Mount Sinai. Temporary nurses and even administrators with clinical backgrounds were tapped to fill in, and some patients noticed longer waits and more sparsely staffed wards. The union stressed staffing as a key concern, saying that nurses who labored through the grueling peak of the coronavirus pandemic are stretched far too thin because too many jobs are open. Nurses say they have had to work overtime, handle twice as many patients as they should, and skip meals and even bathroom breaks.
The hospitals said they have been grappling with a widespread nursing shortage that was exacerbated by the pandemic. The agreements with the hospitals include concrete commitments to better staffing levels—and new provisions to enforce them, the union said. Hagans suggested that the enforcement provisions, which the union didn't immediately detail, had been a key factor in finally reaching a deal early Thursday.
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