NEW YORK (PIX11) — More than 7,000 nurses at Montefiore Bronx and Mount Sinai went on strike Monday, after the hospitals and New York State Nurses Association union failed to reach a contract agreement.

Nurses hope the strike sends the message that they are serious about their demands. Above all, the nurses say staffing shortages are putting patient care in jeopardy and not allowing nurses to properly do their jobs.

“We’ve been negotiating since September and nothing was going on until this – the nurses walked out,” said Montefiore nurse Chinyere Onwumelu.

There are currently 500 nursing position openings at Mount Sinai and more than 700 at Montefiore Bronx.

“It’s so hard to do our job and take care of patients like they deserve to be taken care of,” said Mount Sinai surgical ICU nurse Deanna ZENI.

“They don’t get breaks, they work 24-hour shifts because the hospital doesn’t bother to find replacement nurses for them,” said Matt Allen, a labor and delivery nurse at Mount Sinai.

Mount Sinai Emergency Deptartment nurse Lindsay Cumella said that standard practice indicates she should be caring for no more than three patients at once. On her worst day, however, she had to juggle 17 patients.

“With that patient load, you can see them maybe once or twice over a 12-hour period,” said Cumella.

Mount Sinai had already been preparing for a strike by diverting ambulances, postponing electric surgeries, and transferring some NICU babies to other facilities.

In a statement, Mount Sinai said the New York State Nurses Association walked out of negotiations shortly after 1 a.m. Monday, refusing to accept a 19% salary increase – the same rate agreed upon with other hospitals. Montefiore Bronx said it offered the same, plus 170 new nursing positions; NYSNA turned it down.

NYSNA has already reached deals with seven other city hospitals, most recently with Mount Sinai Morningside and West on Sunday, and New York Presbyterian on Saturday.