Brooklyn Boro

Hospitals in Brooklyn to cut services, hire temps in case of a nurses strike

June 5, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn hospitals say they will put contingency plans in place if nurses decide to go on strike. Shown: Nurses at New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope rallied in December. The hospital says it has hired 125 registered nurses since the beginning of last year.  Photo by Mary Frost

Nurses represented by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a strike if negotiations with hospitals fail.

“We now have the ability to issue a 10-day notice to strike if we cannot make progress,” NYSNA President Sheridan-Gonzalez said in a statement. NYSNA nurses represent 18,000 RNs in 14 private hospitals across the city.

If the nurses issue a strike notice, hospitals in Brooklyn will hire temps to take their place. But they will need to cut services substantially as well, they say.

Five Brooklyn hospitals would be hit if nurses walk off the job: Brooklyn Hospital Center, New York Methodist, Maimonides Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center.

Outside of Brooklyn, affected hospitals include Montefiore Medical Center and Bronx Lebanon Hospital in the Bronx, and Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai St. Lukes, Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospital Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Other affected hospitals include Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island University Hospital and Flushing Hospital.

Nurses say they are fighting for higher staffing levels to protect patients. Jill Furillo, NYSNA’s executive director, told the Labor Press that hiring more nurses was more important than higher wages in the current contract.

New York Methodist Hospital spokesperson Lyn Hill told the Brooklyn Eagle that the hospital had a contingency plan should nurses decide to strike.

“We have a plan in place that ensures continued safe operation by including both use of replacement nurses and substantial curtailment of hospital services,” she said.

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In December, nurses rallied at NY Methodist to protest what they called unsafe levels of staffing at the hospital. The hospital, however, was already boosting staffing levels by that time, Hill said, following arbitration.

NY Methodist is not understaffed, she said. “The hospital made a plan to achieve staffing ratios that was agreed to by both [NY Methodist] and NYSNA. We have added 125 registered nursing positions since the beginning of last year.”

A spokesperson for Interfaith Medical Center, which emerged from bankruptcy a year ago, told the Eagle that Interfaith “values its nurses. We are bargaining in good faith and hope to reach a fair and reasonable contract.”

Eric Phillips, spokesman for The Brooklyn Hospital Center, said that safety “is the number one priority for our patients, staff and the community. In the event of a nursing strike notice or job action, and to ensure continuity of patient care with no disruption, The Brooklyn Hospital Center will be ready to invoke its staffing contingency plan. Our top concern is maintaining the highest level of quality patient care.”

Phillips said the hospital believes that it staffs appropriately, “and considers the important factors of patient acuity, patient volume and patient census when deploying patient caregivers.”

NYSNA spokesperson Tara L. Martin told the Brooklyn Eagle that Emergency Departments at Maimonides and NY Methodist were “overrun” since the closing of Long Island College Hospital. “There’s not appropriate staff” to handle the overload, she said.

NYSNA said it will hold round the clock negotiations with management through Saturday. After the clock runs out, the union could decide to extend the talks, or could issue the 10-day notices.

The union is pushing for a bill that would set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios at New York hospitals, called the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act. Hospitals say that would remove their flexibility.

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