Bronx Borough President, Vanessa Gibson, and local officials, stand in solidarity with nurses as they rally outside of Lincoln Hospital on March 2 for fair contracts and adequate staffing .
The union contract that covers about 9,000 nurses in New York City public hospitals and various mayoral agencies expired this week, prompting members of the New York State Nurses Association to rally at Lincoln Hospital on March 2 for more pay and more staffing.
While private sector hospital nurses make approximately $19,000 more per year than their public-sector counterparts, nurses in hospitals operated by NYC’s Health and Hospitals Corp. are left with having to take on extra shifts and in some cases, second jobs.
“The nurses are burned out, the nurses are tired. Most of our senior nurses are gone. Our units are staffed by young nurses with less than a year of experience,” said Sonia Lawrence, a board member of the union who has worked as a nurse at Lincoln Hospital for over 20 years.
“Our patients are suffering, they have to wait longer for care. They get frustrated and sometimes they lash out at us.” she added.
The New York State Nurses Association has met with the city to negotiate their contracts, but no agreements have been reached. There are talks about setting a deadline for negotiations and what kind of steps the nurse’s union will be willing to take if their requests are not met.
Nurses wear red, the NYSNA union color, in solidarity as they prepare to rally outside of Lincoln Hospital on a gloomy Thursday morning.
“Did you see what happened at Montefiore and Mount Sinai? – Did you think that wasn’t going to happen here?” said NYS senator, Nathalia Fernandez, referencing the nurses’ three-day strike that occurred there earlier this year due to low staffing and unfair contracts.
Where there are normally three nurses for rounds, at times there are only two or sometimes even one, according to Michael Mireau, who is also a nurse at Lincoln Hospital.
According to the Lincoln Hospital emergency department website, their ED numbers are one of the highest in the nation, which is a reflection of the community they serve which consists of more than 1.4 million people within a 40-mile radius. And when a service in private sector hospitals is not making enough money, those patients bleed into the public hospitals, Pat Kane, executive director of the nurse’s union, told the Mott Haven Herald.
Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson was on hand to support the rallying nurses. “We want to make sure that we fill the vacancies because we don’t have enough nurses today. We cannot overwork you and expect you to do a quality job.”
In addition to the rally, several vigils were held at hospitals across the city to honor the nurses who lost their lives as they worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talks on contract negotiations are scheduled to resume on March 7.