NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Nurses at a Westchester County hospital went on strike Tuesday morning as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the region.
A labor dispute at Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital resulted in unionized nurses walking off the job at 7 a.m. for a planned two-day strike, or until a deal is reached.
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) is asking for safer working conditions and more staffing to deal with the potential surge in COVID-19 patients as the number of infections rises.
Marcos Crespo, senior vice president of community affairs for Montefiore Medicine, said they have offered a 7% wage increase, tuition reimbursement and other benefits but the nurses aren’t satisfied.
The hospital began relocating patients on Monday in preparation for the strike.
“Montefiore New Rochelle is taking steps to protect the community because NYSNA leadership has chosen to go on strike during the latest surge of COVID-19,” Crespo said in a statement Monday. “To most this would seem like a good deal, even in the absence of the COVID-19 pandemic when hospitals and individuals are struggling financially.”
The NYSNA issued a statement on Monday panning the hospital’s plan to move patients.
“We announced our intention to strike almost 10 days ago, and this is the best, safest plan Montefiore can come up with for our community?” Nurse Kathy Santoiemma, an NYSNA leader at New Rochelle, said. “The number of patients — including possible COVID patients — has been growing steadily in our emergency department. People in Medical-Surgical and Step-Down Units need close monitoring — transporting them is a risk. Where are they going to go? These decisions by hospital management have me extremely concerned.”
Several elected officials have written a letter in support of the nurses and are urging the hospital to nail down a contract.