By Cesar “Boyet” Loverita
NEW YORK CITY — Filipino-Americans and Filipinos joined around 7,000 nurses here who went on strike early Monday morning after negotiations for additional staffing, better working conditions and salaries collapsed.
Nurses from New York’s biggest hospitals — Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx — walked out starting 6 am Monday.
Nearly three years into the coronavirus pandemic, nurses have complained that they have been working so hard and yet do not receive support to unburden their load.
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSA) and the hospital administrations of Mount Sinai and Montefiore sat down to discuss the nurses’ demands. After one week of negotiations, the bargaining talks ended in a stalemate.
Pinoy nurses’ woes
“We’re here to strike ngayon to fight for our patient’s safety,” Anna Ariles, a FilAm nurse in Montefiore, said.
Ariles said their hospitals need more staff to provide services to their patients better. She said that nurses also deserve an increase in salary, especially after what they have gone through during the pandemic.
“Sobrang hirap namin nung Covid pandemic and it’s been going on since I started here in Montefiore in 2014. Ang dami naming pasyente. Wala silang (hospital admin) paki sa amin,” she added.
She lamented that hospital management would stop short at giving words of encouragement whenever they complained of exhaustion and mental anxiety.
“Sasabihin lang nila na, ‘Okay lang yan, you can do it.’ And we don’t get any bonuses or anything. I think we deserve better with our patient,” she said.
Delita Glory Ferri, another Filipina nurse, is a Covid survivor. She will retire soon, but she decided to join the ranks and fight for the rights of her colleagues.
“I’m one of the survivors of the Covid. Nahirapan talaga ako. I was so bad, and I was taken care of by my peers and saw how much they worked hard. They’re thrown all over the place to take care of the sick patients,” she narrated.
Hindi kami mareklamo, pero sobra na!
Ferri said Filipinos are known in the US for their resiliency and compliance. But she stressed Filipinos should fight for their rights, too.
“Kawawa talaga mga nurses. Alam mo naman mga Pilipino hindi masyado mareklamo and we don’t really talk. This time, because of this, we all need na parang redemption na rin sa bawat isa sa amin na somebody has to speak up for what we really need. Hindi lang para sa amin kundi para din sa mga pasyente,” Ferri explained.
Madona Mariano is a Filipino working as a cardiothoracic ICU nurse in Montefiore’s Emergency Department. She illustrated how chronic understaffing leaves them caring for too many patients.
“The usual ratio we have is 24 patients at one time. So you cannot take care of 24 patients at one time. It’s not safe, especially for the patients. I do the best I can in ICU with a very critical patient, sometimes three patients for one nurse with a very, very critical patient. During COVID, it was worst, and no one was helping us,” Mariano said.
Hospital admin reaction
In separate statements, the hospitals offered the nurses a compounded wage increase of 19.1 per cent.
“Despite Montefiore’s offer of a 19.1 percent compounded wage increase – the same offer agreed to at the wealthiest of our peer institutions – and a commitment to create over 170 new nursing positions, and despite a call from Governor Hochul for arbitration, NYSNA’s leadership has decided to walk away from the bedsides of their patients. Therefore, at 6 am, NYSNA nurses will be on strike and off the job. We remain committed to seamless and compassionate care, recognizing that the union leadership’s decision will spark fear and uncertainty across our community. This is a sad day for New York City.”
Mount Sinai Hospital
“The union refused to accept the exact same offer of a 19.1 percent wage increase over three years that it agreed to at eight other hospitals, including Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West, and disregarded Governor Hochul’s proposal for binding arbitation to avoid a strike.
“If you or a loved one is a Mount Sinai patient, we will contact you directly by text, email, and/or phone if we need to reschedule your appointment or procedure. Please know that most outpatient appointments and procedures are going forward, so assume your scheduled appointment is still on unless you hear from your provider about a change in your care. Our patients are our top priority, now and always.”
Mount Sinai and Montefiore diverted ambulances and patients to other hospitals and rescheduled non-emergency procedures. They also pulled in temporary staffers and assigned managers with nursing backgrounds to cover nursing shifts.
New York City was making preparations to deal with the strike’s impact.
“Our system will be prepared to meet the challenges,” NYC Mayor Eric Adams said.
Other private hospitals in New York have reached a compromise with their respective nurses’ unions.
Nurses from city or federal-funded hospitals also did not join the big strike because a New York state law prohibits public employees from going on strike.
photos by Cesar “Boyet” Loverita