Nurses demanding better pay, more staffing strike at New Rochelle hospital

Nurses at Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital in Westchester County went on strike at 7 a.m. Tuesday over better pay, staffing, and more personal protective equipment as the COVID-19 pandemic resurges.

The nurses are threatening to continue the walk-out for two days if they cannot hammer out a new contract with the hospital.

"This contract expired two years ago, December 31, 2018,"  said Judy Sheridan Gonzalez, New York State Nurses Association. "These nurses have been more than patient for the contract that they need. With a COVID upsurge coming they've got to have the support that they need to keep staff here."

The NYSNA says staffing levels at the hospital are dangerously low with one nurse responsible for ten patients or double the number recommended.

Also, the union points to the dangers associated with caring for coronavirus patients citing the death of one nurse in the spring.

But the hospital says it has offered the union a wage increase and a 'good' deal which it has turned down.

"In negotiations over the past 18-months, we offered NYSNA a wage increase of over 7%. Medical expenses for retired nurses, tuition reimbursement of $7,500 per year, health insurance with no employee contributions, and funding for the NYSNA Pension Fund," said the hospital in a statement.

Montefiore New Rochelle started transferring patients to other hospitals in anticipation of the strike.

The hospital says the NYSNA is striking because it wants the "power to dictate staffing assignments and hand out plum positions to their friends."

"NYSNA is willfully misleading the public by suggesting that Montefiore New Rochelle is unprepared for the latest COVID-19 surge, when the truth is, in compliance with the Governor's orders, MNR is stocked with 90 days of PPE for its employees. NYSNA is selfishly putting the community at risk and using COVID-19 as a political football," said the hospital.

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Nurses at Albany Medical Center Hospital began a 24-hour strike Tuesday over their deadlocked contract negotiations as well as complaints of inadequate coronavirus protocols. The Times Union reports that about 100 nurses were on the picket line shortly after 7 a.m.

Nurses at both hospitals are represented by the New York State Nurses Association, which filed a complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Monday alleging that nurses at the Albany Medical Center are being forced to reuse N95 respirator masks as many as 20 times. That is far beyond the maximum of five times recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospital officials have condemned the job actions.

“This is a painful day for Albany Med," hospital spokesperson Matthew Markham said. “While some of our nurses have chosen to abandon their patients, even as coronavirus hospitalizations continue reaching record levels in the Capital Region, Albany Med will not abandon its mission.” He said temporary nurses were at the hospital to replace those who are striking.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that there are about 3,500 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, up from 900 in late June. He directed hospitals to draw up plans to handle an expected surge during the holidays.

With the Associated Press