The negotiations are taking place nearly three years into a pandemic that has left some frontline medical workers with deep distrust for management, prompting nurses to walk out in states across the country, as well as overseas. Nurses in Britain went on strike last month for the first time in the 74-year history of the country’s National Health Service.
Many nurses and doctors who worked through the first wave of the pandemic have not forgotten the conditions when Covid first swept through the city in early 2020, overwhelming hospitals with a surge of patients and killing more than 22,000 residents. Medical staff felt betrayed by administrators, after it became clear many hospitals had done too little in the way of preparation and there wasn’t nearly enough personal protective equipment.
The pandemic has also exacerbated a nursing shortage in New York. Many nurses left longstanding jobs at hospitals for higher-paying short-term assignments with medical staffing agencies, or they left the profession altogether. Hospitals in turn have grown more reliant on hiring contract nurses at higher-hourly rates from staffing agencies to fill the gap. But emergency departments and other units remain understaffed at many hospitals across the city, which means far more patients and stress for the nurses working there.
Ms. Hagan said hospitals’ failure to hire new nurses has left hundreds of unfilled slots.
“Our No. 1 issue is a crisis of staffing,” she said, adding, “It is an issue that our employers have ignored.”
Montefiore, in the Bronx, has failed to hire nurses to fill 760 empty slots, Ms. Hagan said. Some nurses are tending up to 20 patients at a time in units that are often swamped — especially the emergency room, which is “so overcrowded that patients are admitted in beds in the hallway instead of hospital rooms,” she said.
On Sunday, two other Manhattan hospitals, both run by the Mount Sinai Health System — Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West, both on the West Side — reached a tentative settlement with the union, which included a 19.1 percent wage increase over three years.
Hospital officials said they had made the same offer, which provided an additional $51,000 in cash compensation for each nurse and $19,500 in medical payment benefits over three years, to nurses at the Mount Sinai Hospital on Fifth Avenue.