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New York nurses demand safe staffing, pay equity

Don Tagala | TFC News New York

Posted at Jan 20 2023 10:23 AM

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Barely a week after dozens of nurses ended their strike at two privately-owned hospitals in New York City, dozens of nurses from 11 city hospitals took to the streets in an effort to renegotiate their own contracts.

The protest ended at the New York City Health and Hospitals headquarters in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon.

Protesters said that after all the sacrifices the nurses have done for the city during the pandemic, they deserve better working conditions, safe staffing, and better pay.

"The gap between our pay and the private sector nurse pay is only getting bigger and more unfair. We congratulate our New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) siblings in the private sector for winning great contracts," Sonia Lawrence of the NYSNA Board of Directors said.

New York City Council member Christopher Marte noted, "we gotta make sure the public sector health and hospital listens to the demand of the nurses."

According to protesters, there is a $14,000 pay gap between public and private sector nurses. That is why many nurses are likely to transfer to a better paying private hospital job, which in turn, causes a nurse shortage in the public hospitals.

"We are fighting for I think 20 percent increase over three years, so that’s what the other hospitals are getting so we’re fighting for that," registered nurse Jurnalith Yu said.

Filipina nurse Cynthia Cantos has worked in an emergency room for nearly four decades, taking care of about 20 patients during her shift. This ratio, she said, is not safe for healthcare workers and is not safe for patients either.

"It's been happening for years and they’re still not resolving it," Cantos stressed. "They have to have a law where there's safe staffing for patients and a ratio for nurses."

The protesters added that while there are nurse to patient ratios written into the contracts for the public sector nurses, they are not enforced due to a national nurse shortage.

"Mistakes happen when we are overwhelmed and when we have so many patients to care for and so many different things going on for that particular patient at one given time, multiply that by 15, 23 is just not humanly possible to deliver high quality patient care and that's our goal. We took an oath to deliver safe patient care to all regardless of religion, race, color and any statuses," Kirsys Baez of the Elmhurst Hospital said.

NYSNA's current contract expires on March 2nd. An enhanced contract is seen to impact the lives of more than 9,000 hospital and mayoral nurses union members across the Big Apple.