Hundreds of nurses from Mount Sinai in Manhattan and Montefiore in the Bronx are striking for a third straight day on the streets of New York City. Both facilities are struggling to provide basic care as the demonstration continues. Ambulances are being diverted to other hospitals and hundreds of procedures have been canceled. The hospitals have had to rely on temporary nurses to fill in the gaps.
“It’s very chaotic,” Ana Hare, 60, told The New York Times. She was discharged from Montefiore on Tuesday after six days in the hospital. She had to wait two and a half hours to receive her medication on Monday, a sharp contrast from the care she received at the beginning of her stay.
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) resumed negotiations with leaders of the two hospitals on Tuesday, but a deal has yet to be reached. The nurses are asking for higher pay and more staff. However, representatives for Mount Sinai said they were close to agreeing on a nurse-patient ratio.
“I do believe that when our Mount Sinai nurses look at what we’ve offered, I think they will feel valued, respected and know that they’re going to continue to be a part of a team that’s going to lead change so that we can retain our nurse,” said Frances Cartwright, Mount Sinai’s Chief Nursing Office.
Mayor Eric Adams recently told the public not to call 9-1-1 unless absolutely necessary to ease the burden placed on emergency rooms.
Nurses on the picket lines say they are striking to make the hospital safer for patients and providers. Ana Villeda, an emergency room nurse, said the ED often felt like a parking garage with patients on stretchers stacked several layers deep. She said some nurses have to care for up to 15 patients at a time.
“You pile the patients in,” she said. “You can have a psychiatric patient screaming while you are intubating a patient, right next to each other. It’s so dangerous.”
She said a man in the waiting room experiencing abdominal pain started having a heart attack and it took the staff three hours to realize what was going on. “You do the best you can,” she said.
Nurse Jed Basubas said he generally cares for around eight to ten patients at a time, which is twice the ideal number for his unit. Nurse practitioner Juliet Escalon said she will often skip bathroom breaks just to care for patients.
Ashleigh Woodside added that her 12-hour operating room shifts often stretch to 14 hours or more due to staffing issues. “We love our job. We want to take care of our patients. But we just want to do it safely and in a humane way, where we feel appreciated,” Woodside said.
Both hospitals are currently accepting patients while operating with a skeleton crew. “Contingency plans remain in place to ensure our hospitals remain open,” Montefiore said in a statement.
Lucia Lee, a spokeswoman for Mount Sinai, called the situation “impossible” but said the hospital is “weathering through it. We are trying to be resilient.”
In addition to increasing their pay, the nurses want their managers to address the overcrowding situation in the emergency department. ER boarding can leave patients waiting on stretchers in the hallway for hours. They also want the company to provide hiring bonuses to new nurses to fill the large number of vacancies.
“We want to be with our patients,” said Michelle Gonzalez, a Montefiore nurse. “We want to take care of our community but give us the resources that we need to do that.”
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