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Hospitals taking emergency actions amid looming nurses strike in New York City

10,000 NYC nurses could go on strike Monday
10,000 NYC nurses could go on strike Monday 02:38

NEW YORK -- Hospitals in New York City are starting to put contingency plans in place as more than 10,000 nurses prepare to go on strike.

Without a contract agreement, the strike is expected to start Monday.

Mount Sinai Health System is transferring babies in some neonatal intensive care units to other hospital systems, diverting ambulances and postponing some elective surgeries. 

The unprecedent moving of NICU babies from Mount Sinai's Upper East Side location started after hospital leaders left the bargaining table at 12:30 a.m. Friday.

"For our parents who have babies here, this is, for them, could be the most stressful time of their lives," said Francis Cartwright, Mount Sinai's chief nursing officer.

More bargaining sessions are expected, but are not yet scheduled. 

Cartwright said the contract offers were generous, especially pay raises. 

"With the compounded interest, that's 19 percent over time, putting extra contributions into the pension, into the health benefits," said Cartwright. 

Members of the New York State Nurses Association said the biggest sticking point appears to be increased staffing, which nurses say is critical to patient care. 

Watch John Dias' report

NYC nurse strike looms next week 03:44

At first, seven hospitals were in this. Then tentative deals were struck with three. 

More than 10,000 nurses at five hospitals remain without a contract. Montefiore the Bronx, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai Morningside and West, BronxCare and Flushing Hospital Medical Center are on strike notice.

"New York City hospitals have violated our trust through years of understaffing and that understaffing has only gotten worse," said NYSNA President Nancy Hagans.

CBS2's Ali Bauman spoke to Flandersia Jones, a nurse at BronxCare.

"What do you think it's gonna look like at the hospital next week if you all go on strike?" Bauman asked.

"Oh my god, it's gonna be chaos. It's gonna be chaos. There's no way they can have enough nurses to take care of the patients," Jones said.

Jones says her average patient count has doubled since the pandemic, and it's unsustainable for both nurses and patients.

"Most patients don't get the care that they deserve, and that's not what we signed up for," Jones said.

In a statement, leaders at Montefiore said, "Despite a generous offer that includes an 18 percent wage increase, fully funded health care for life and a significant increase in registered nurses in the emergency departments," they haven't been able to agree. 

"I'm glad we came before everything goes with a strike," said Francis Rosen, a patient visiting the Upper West Side hospital. 

"I still have confidence and hope that our clinical nurses ... If they look at this package and really look at it thoughtfully, I can't imagine that they wouldn't say I'm gonna keep going, I'm gonna take care of my patients," said Cartwright.

Watch Dave Carlin's report

NICU babies moved from NYC hospital ahead of potential nurses strike 02:50

Along with transferring babies, Mount Sinai Health System is rearranging ambulance schedules and postponing some elective surgeries. Hospitals are also hiring traveling temporary nurses. 

Hagans said holding the line now is about nurses and patients. 

"Our main goal in these negotiations is to improve patient care, to save staffing and fair wages, to recruit and retain nurses," said Hagans.

"We have put in so many things to strengthen the bench and to stabilize the workforce ... but I can just tell you, there's nothing that we're doing that I feel is fast enough either," Cartwright said.

If nothing significant happens over the weekend, a strike will go into effect at the five hospitals.

Friday night, the union reached a tentative agreement with Flushing Hospital, where 470 nurses work.

Sarah Galindez says she noticed they seemed understaffed when she went to the emergency room a few days ago.

"There was one nurse I really felt bad for her 'cause she was, like, running, running, running, and it was like nonstop," she said.

Flushing down joins NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Maimonides Medical Center and Richmond University Medical Center in avoiding a strike.

Maimonides Health CEO released the following statement:

"The approval of this agreement is good for Maimonides, good for our nurses, and good for the patients we serve. We worked together to find common ground that supports our hardworking nurses and ensures our patients, many from underserved communities, continue to receive the best possible care. I am grateful to the members of Maimonides' and NYSNA's negotiating teams, in particular NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, for making this agreement possible."

Negotiations will continue over the weekend.

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