NEW YORK (PIX11) — Nurses working at New York City-run hospitals said they make $19,000 a year less than nurses at private hospitals, according to the New York Nurses Association. 

They’re currently negotiating a new contract and have turned to the City Council for help while 9,000 nurses work with an expired contract. 

Their union said 10% of nursing staff has left city-run hospitals for better pay. 

Kristal Simms-Murphy is a nurse practitioner at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, where she said her staff is spread thin and going through a rotating door of nurses. 

The city has hired traveling nurses at higher pay to fill staffing gaps. 

“Moral is low- you’re working with someone that you have a couple of days, but they are making double or triple what you’re making,” Murphy said. “We are training nurses that are coming for a shadow school for three months, six months a year, and then they leave because they can get higher pay.”

NYSNA wants to match the pay of private hospitals where nurses went on strike earlier this year to secure higher pay and better benefits with a more manageable nurse-to-patient ratio. 

But nurses who work for city-run hospitals cannot join a picket line because it is unlawful for civil servants to strike. 

The head of the city’s health and hospitals said he agrees attrition of nurses after covid has been an obstacle to keeping safe nurse-to-patient ratios. 

They said they aim to use fewer traveling nurses this year by hiring more full-time staff. 

“The cost of maintaining sufficient nursing puts us in the negative net balance. We are currently anticipating a loss of 144 million in 2023, which is about 1%,” said Dr. Mitch Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals.

But staff nurses still have one big concern looming.

“If you’re spending all this money on agency staff, why can’t you spend that money on the staff that’s been there and has been loyal by giving us equal pay,” said Murphy.

City nurses have given the city a June 1 deadline for a new contract.