Crisis-level Understaffing and Retention Problems at NYC Public Hospitals Highlighted by Nurses and Elected Officials

For Immediate Release: October 6, 2022 
Contact:  Kristi Barnes | | 646-853-4489 

NYSNA nurses and allies speak out to rebuild and strengthen NYC’s public healthcare system through pay equity, safe staffing and fair funding

New York, N.Y.— More than a dozen elected officials joined New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) nurses in solidarity on the City Hall steps to launch a campaign for a fair contract for the nearly 9,000 NYC Health+Hospitals/Mayorals nurses and fair funding for the nation’s largest public health system. NYC’s public sector nurses have been essential in saving lives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but now the NYC Health+Hospitals system is facing crisis-level understaffing and underfunding. 

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Sen. Gustavo Rivera, Sen. Brian Kavanaugh, and more than a dozen City Council members spoke out in support of city nurses and for fair funding for the city’s public health system.

New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) First Vice President Judith Cutchin, DNP, RN, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the deep inequalities in NYC’s public and private sector hospital systems, which led to a disproportionate number of people of color and low-income patients dying of COVID-19. We need full and fair funding for our public healthcare system as a matter of health equity and racial justice and to make the entire city more prepared to deal with the ongoing pandemic and future healthcare emergencies.”  

NYSNA Director at Large, Sonia Lawrence, RN, of Health+Hospitals/Lincon, said: “At H+H we care for all New Yorkers—but we need to do it safely—with quality. This is hard because we’re always doing more with less. It is widely accepted that safe staffing saves lives, yet H+H nurses are forced daily to undertake patient ratios that are clinically unsafe and are in direct violation of our staffing laws.  So many of our experienced nurses are tired and giving up. H+H needs to do more to retain experienced nurses rooted in the community. All we want is to be fairly compensated and fairly treated for the important work we do. It’s time to respect public sector nurses and our patients!” 

The pay difference between nurses in public sector and private sector hospitals is large—more than $14,000/year. Public sector nurses are calling for pay equity in order to retain nurses.  

NYC Health+Hospitals nurses care for 1.4 million New Yorkers each year, regardless of ability to pay, including 475,000 uninsured patients. As private sector hospitals downsize and eliminate less profitable services like mental healthcare, labor and delivery, and emergency/trauma care, New York’s public hospitals are there to provide these essential services.  

“We rightly celebrated New York City’s nurses as essential workers during the pandemic, and so now it’s time to pay them higher wages,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “Public sector nurses deliver top-quality care for our community every day, and they deserve pay that reflects that work. I hope to see our hospitals award our nurses a fair contract.” 

“Our frontline nurses protect the health of our communities by providing quality care for all New Yorkers,” said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. “They deserve a fair contract, safe staffing levels, and appropriate resources to continue serving our communities with essential care. I stand in solidarity with the New York State Nurses Association in their call for respect, dignity, and support through a fair contract.” 

New York City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse, Chair of the Hospitals Committee said: “As a former public sector registered nurse, I can confidently say that nurses are truly the backbone of our healthcare system. These healthcare heroes proved time and time again their immense worth to our city during the pandemic, and all certainly deserve our respect and most importantly fair wages and equity with their counterparts in the private sector. I am proud to stand in support with my sisters and brothers in NYSNA to call for a fair contract.” 

"We support NYSNA and their demand for a fair contract. Our public sector nurses stepped up when we needed them most; they were revered and deemed heroes during the toughest parts of the pandemic. We would not have moved forward without their dedication and commitment to ensuring that our city was well taken care of," said Council Member Carmen De La Rosa Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor. "We cannot pay our nurses back with a lack of fair contracts, pay equity, and competitive benefit packages. We cannot risk the strength and safety of our healthcare system by failing to retain our healthcare workforce."  

“New York City is home to one of the largest hospital systems in the country, yet its employees continue to face pay disparities in the workplace. Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system, yet they struggle to make ends meet and find themselves working overtime or taking on a second job. By paying current and new staff members a livable wage, we will decrease the vacancies filled by third-party agencies and traveling nurses, reviving our hospitals and patient experience. To truly achieve pay equity for our municipal workers in the medical field, prioritize our recruitment and retention. There is no reason for two nurses with similar, if not the same credentials, to have different experiences in the workplace,” said Chair of the Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection, Council Member Marjorie Velazquez

New York City Council Member Jennifer Gutierrez said: “It is a moral imperative that we ensure that nurses can take care of themselves as well as their patients and be valued for the essential work that they perform every day — and respected for the crucial role they played during our worst days of the pandemic. We also cannot ignore that this is a profession that is predominately women, almost 90%, and negotiating a fair and equitable contract would be an important signal that our city cares about our female workforce.” 

“Our NYSNA Health+Hospital nurses saved countless New Yorkers during the pandemic, sacrificing their own health for the sake of their patients. They deserve the same pay as private sector nurses for their tireless work,” said Council Member Julie Won. “As contracts chair for the City Council, I will work to ensure that our nurses have a fair contract that meets all of their demands, including pay equity, safe staffing, and the resources to continue providing high-quality health care for all of our neighbors.” 


The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses.
For more information, visit 


The New York State Nurses Association is a union of 42,000 frontline nurses united together for strength at work, our practice, safe staffing, and healthcare for all. We are New York's largest union and professional association for registered nurses.