New York Hospitals Agree to Hire More Nurses, Establish Minimum Staffing Ratios

In a major victory for New York nurses, several major hospitals agreed to establish minimum staffing levels for nurses at hospitals. The unions representing the nurses in negotiations had threatened to a 10,000-strong strike at the hospitals if the hospitals did not satisfy their demands. Marc Kramer, the lead negotiator for the hospitals, told The New York Times, “This significant investment in our nursing teams will ultimately benefit patients in the long term, while preserving hospital’s flexibility to deliver the individual, tailored health care that our institutions are known for around the world.” The hospitals agreeing to minimum staffing levels for nurses include Mount Sinai, New York-Presbyterian, and Montefiore hospital systems.

Nurses have fought for established minimum nursing ratios for years. Frustrated by the Albany’s reluctance to take action, the nurses finally threatened to walk off the job this year. While the exact ratios have not been decided yet, California’s mandatory minimum ratios differ depending on the circumstances – more nurses are required in the ICU than an urgent care clinic. For example, California requires one nurse for every eight healthy babies in a nursery ward. The New York Times says that New York-Presbyterian nurses describe a workload that is at least double what would be legal in California.

While the mandatory staffing ratios represent the most important part of their agreement, the nurse’s union and hospital systems also required the hospitals to immediately fill 800 vacant posts and then spend $25 million each year to increase nursing staff. The New York Times also reported that any disagreements concerning staffing will be handled through a third-party mediator. Further, nurses will receive a 3 percent annual pay raise.

While the agreement still needs to be ratified by union members, the nursing unions appear confident that the vote is more of a formality. Describing the agreement as “historic,” Anthony Ciampa, vice president of the New York States Nurses Association, said, “We now have a voice in the process and a real say in the mechanism in which to challenge patterns of staffing shortages and to get those rectified.” Hopefully, the increase in nursing staff translates to better patient care.