Natasha Ishak

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Understaffed, underpaid, and unsupported—that’s what thousands of nurses across New York City were protesting in citywide strikes on Wednesday. Nurses at Bushwick’s Wyckoff Heights Medical Center joined 13 other hospitals in demonstrations, holding colorful signs emblazoned with the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) logo.

“There tend to be unsafe nurse to patient ratio. Nurses are being floated to cover shortages in other units, leaving their units short. So we feel we are unable to give quality patient care to our patients,” Dalia Branford, a registered nurse picketing outside the Wyckoff center, told Brooklyn 12 News. Not enough staffing at hospitals and undercompensation have become recurring themes for nurse strikes.

NYS Comptroller joined the picket via @NYSNA Twitter.

“We need to do better as far as funding the hospitals, so that the hospitals can be able to hire more nurses,” Assembly Member Maritza Davila said as quoted by Brooklyn 12 News at the Bushwick protest. Wyckoff Heights Medical Center President and CEO Ramon Rodriguez was also present at the picketing scene and seemed to support the protest, saying that the nurses were asking for “basic rights and basic access to care.”

In a statement released the same day, NYSNA stated that the demonstrations were a response to reports from several hospitals that revealed 3,800 Protests of Assignments (POAs), or formal complaints, filed by nurses in 2018. The POAs were signed by over 20,000 nurses and highlighted severe issues at the hospitals. POAs listed in the reports come from Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and West, New York Presbyterian, and Montefiore Medical Center.

“It is clear that something must be done, including the implementation of safe staffing ratios to ensure every patient gets the care they need and deserve. Safe staffing is one of the issues that is currently being discussed as part of contract negotiations,” NYSNA’s statement said. “NYSNA RNs refused to be silenced on this issue despite hospital attempts to stop RNs from expressing our views and hospital failure to provide us all the information we requested on staffing.”

The hospitals mentioned have been collectively negotiating contracts with NYSNA. Labor Notes reports that, in addition to safe staffing ratios, the nurses union wants a “community outreach committee” explicitly added to the contract. Such a committee would enable the union and community groups to meet with hospital management regularly to discuss ongoing problems.

The nurse protests this week were “informational pickets” to raise awareness during negotiations. If the nurses union votes to strike, 13,000 nurses from New York’s biggest hospitals could walk out.

Cover photo courtesy of @NYSNA‘s Twitter.

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