1,000 Filipino nurses affected by strike vs. 2 New York City hospitals


NEW YORK CITY – Around 1,000 Filipino nurses were affected by a strike conducted by nurses from two hospitals in New York City.

More than 7,000 nurses at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan staged the strike after the management of the two hospitals and the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) did not come to an agreement regarding additional staffing.

The nurses conducted the strike starting at 6 a.m. Monday, affecting the operations of the two hospitals.

The NYSNA has for years been asking the management of the two hospitals to agree to a staffing implementation due to the lack of nurses left to perform tasks.

According to Lorena Vivas, NYSNA executive committee member for the Mount Sinai Hospital, the management of the said hospital did not agree to the staffing implementation which led to a deadlock in negotiation.

“Ayaw nila sa staffing implementation. ‘Yan ang problema namin. This is not about the money. What this is about is safe staffing. Ang gusto namin ma-ensure na magtatrabaho kami na sapat ang staff kasi ang nangyayari ngayon ang vacancy namin 550 (nurses). Ano ang ibig sabihin niyan? ‘Pag nasa ICU ka, legally dalawa lang dapat ang inaalagaan mo. Eh naging apat. On top of that, kulang ang staff. Karamihan sa amin nagtatrabaho ng 24 hours kasi naaawa kami sa maiiwan na shift. Sa emergency room kapag nagpunta kayo doon, 20 pasyente per nurse. Paano mo maaalagaan ‘yun?” she said.

(They are not in favor of a staffing implementation. That is our problem. This is not about the money. What this is about is safe staffing. We want to ensure that we will work with enough staff because what is happening now is there are 550 vacancies for nurses. What does that mean? If you are in the ICU, legally, you should only take care of two patients. But we have to take care of four. On top of that, there is a shortage of staff. Many of us work for 24 hours because we pity those who will be left behind in the next shift. In the emergency room, the ratio is 20 patients per nurse. How can you take care of them all?)

Pilar Liwanag, a special unit nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital, said the patients’ safety is already being compromised.

“Kasi taga-special unit kami so galing kami ng ICU. Ang ratio kasi usually, one nurse is to two [patients] eh. Ngayon triple, quadruple. Patients are very very sick so how can you manage four very very sick patients kung isa ka lang? Eh dapat two patient lang…We don’t want to compromise patient safety. At stake safety ng license namin,” Liwanag said.

(We are with the special unit so we came from the ICU. The ratio usually is one nurse to two [patients]. But now, it’s triple, quadruple. Patients are very very sick so how can you manage four very very sick patients when you are only one? You should care for only two patients. We don’t want to compromise patient safety. The safety of our license is also at stake.)

Another special unit nurse, Rosa Magbanlac, echoed their sentiments and said the hospital management is allegedly avoiding accountability.

“Ang safe staffing kasi ayaw pumayag ng management na magbigay ng grid ratio. ‘Pag walang grid ratio, they are not accountable for anything. That’s what happened to previous contract where there was shortage of staff in all the units. ICU patient [ratio is] like three is to 1 for nurse. This should be two. And some clinically sick patient instead of 1 is to 1 they give more patients. It’s very unfair. And emergency department is short of staff. All the units are short of staff so the nurses are very tired now. Enough is enough,” Magbanlac said.

(Management did not agree to give a grid ratio which is part of safe staffing. When there is no grid ratio, they are not accountable for anything….)

The Department of Health and Human Resources has already coordinated with the two hospitals to determine how the issue can be fixed.

The New York Attorney General is also checking if there were any violations on the part of the two hospitals.

In a statement, the Philippine Consulate General in New York said it is hoping the issue would be resolved soon.

“The Philippine Consulate General in New York supports the clamor of Filipino-American nurses, employed in Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, for better wages and working conditions,” the statement read.

“When New York City became the epicenter of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, our kababayan nurses stayed true to their oath to care for the sick and the dying, sometimes at the expense of their very own lives. For their compassion, dedication, and selflessness, their call for better employment terms and conditions should be heeded,” it added.

“We look forward to a mutually acceptable resolution to the strike and hope that all dispute resolution avenues be exhausted to ensure the healthcare of New Yorkers and the recognition of the indispensable role of our nurses who are at the forefront of patient care,” the Consulate said.

A Reuters report said the two hospitals issued statements on Monday saying they offered a 19.1% compounded wage increase to the nurses.

The Montefiore Medical Center also committed to create more than 170 new nursing positions.

“We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognizing that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community,” it said.

Elective surgeries and procedures had to be rescheduled and appointments at ambulatory locations were postponed due to the strike, Montefiore said.

Meanwhile, Mount Sinai Hospital said most of the outpatient appointments and procedures previously scheduled are going forward. —Dave Llavanes Jr./KG, GMA Integrated News