FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 22, 2023
Contact: Kristi Barnes | firstname.lastname@example.org | 646-853-4489
Eliza M. Bates | email@example.com | 646-285-8491
NYSNA Nurses Held Simultaneous Protests at Three Major Public Hospitals Today with Press Conference at H+H/Lincoln
Nurses are sounding the alarm on the crisis of chronic understaffing and high turnover as new data released on NYC’s outrageous and growing spending on temporary travel nurses
BREAKING: NYC has already spent over $400 million on temp travel nurses in the first few months of FY 2023 – settling a fair contract that retains staff nurses at the bedside is the only way to stop this bleed of public resources
New York, NY— On Thursday, June 22, 2023 at 12:30 PM, NYSNA nurses held speak-outs at three major public hospitals – H+H/Lincoln, H+H/Kings, and H+H/Elmhurst – as part of a series of escalating protests. Nurses held a press conference at H+H/Lincoln to kick off the day of action and were joined by allies and elected leaders, including NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and Assemblymember Amanda Septimo at H+H/Lincoln in the Bronx, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest and Assemblymember Brian Cunningham at H+H/Kings County in Brooklyn, and State Senators Jessica Ramos, Jon Liu and Kristen Gonzalez, and Assemblymembers Zohran Mamdani and Catalina Cruz at H+H/Elmhurst in Queens. The previous day, nurses held a speak-out at H+H/Coney Island (South Brooklyn), and more protests are planned in the coming days. Nurses are calling on Mayor Adams to do the right thing for racial and healthcare justice for New Yorkers, and settle a fair contract with nurses that will help to recruit and retain enough caregivers at the bedside.
Photos and videos from the protests can be found at Facebook.com/NYNurses and Instragram.com/NYNurses. Media outlets have permission to use all videos and pictures from NYSNA’s social media feeds with credit to NYSNA.
On the day of the protests, Politico reported new data that the city released on spending for temporary travel nurse contracts after NYC Comptroller Brad Lander raised concerns about out-of-control costs in a letter to H+H. The city revealed that NYC H+H spent $589.9 million on temp RN staffing in fiscal year 2022, even more than the $549 million previously reported for calendar year 2022. And spending on temp RN staffing in fiscal year 2023 is on track to exceed last year’s expenditures after only a few months, with $401.8 million already spent in FY 2023. The average hourly rate for temp nurses is now $163.50. That's nearly 3.5 times what staff nurses make, fringe benefits included.
Even using the city’s much lower previously released estimate, NYC spends at least $1.5 million on temp nurses every single day that they fail to settle a fair contract that keeps qualified staff nurses at the bedside.
Sonia Lawrence, RN at H+H/Lincoln and President of NYSNA’s NYC Health+Hospitals/Mayorals Executive Council said: “I grew up in the Bronx and I am proud to care for my Bronx community. But the city is not making it easy for us. We are understaffed, overworked, and underpaid. Instead of investing in staff nurses based in our communities, H+H is spending more than half a billion dollars a year on temp travel nurses – they’re spending more on temp travel nurses now than at any time during the pandemic. That’s expensive, unsustainable, and offensive to hardworking H+H nurses. It would cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars less to raise pay for public sector nurses to stop the crisis of high turnover and understaffing.”
Musu King, RN at H+H/Lincoln and NYSNA Local Bargaining Unit President for H+H/Lincoln said: “As the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the Bronx, we have ambulances bringing people in all day and night. Nurses try to cover each other's patients and fill all the holes but it can feel impossible because we are so understaffed. I’ve seen very ill patients get fed up and walk out of the emergency room. Short staffing leads to a cycle of frustrated nurses who quit because they can’t give patients the care they were trained to give. Right now, we have more temporary agency nurses than regular staff in the Emergency Department. Since the pandemic, this is the worst I've seen it. I care about my community here in the Bronx and want to deliver the best care, but I feel like we are at a breaking point. Health + Hospitals needs to come to the table and deliver a fair contract that will retain and respect nurses.”
Wanda Gonzalez, RN at H+H/Lincoln said: “During the worst of the pandemic, I volunteered to go to a COVID unit. It was the hardest experience of my life. I was scared for myself, for my kids, my co-workers and my patients. I translated for dying patients and held the phone to my patients’ ear as their families said goodbye. We helped save New York, but soon there could be fewer of us to answer the call when New York needs us. We need fair pay and safe staffing to provide quality and dignified care to our community. That’s why we’re calling on the mayor to help us now. Please do the right thing. We are always on the frontlines to help New York through every crisis—don’t leave us behind now.”
The New York Daily News previously reported that NYC paid $1.2 billion to a for-profit staffing firm called Rightsourcing in fiscal year 2022. Rightsourcing, which is owned by a Swedish private equity firm, subcontracted with temp agencies to fill staffing gaps at H+H/Mayorals – gaps that were largely caused by public sector nurse pay being so much lower than the industry standard.
State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton said: “I stand firmly behind the nurses of SD23 fighting for fair contracts. It's common sense- Our nurses play a vital role in patient care, and without them patients will not receive the adequate medical attention they need. We need to empower our nurses so that the people we love are taken care of.”
"Our city's public sector nurses deserve pay equity, which is critical to the well-being of nurses and their patients," said City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. "Nurses in our public hospitals are suffering from the burden of understaffing and are not being compensated fairly for their labor. Without a fair contract, the pay disparity between private and public sector nurses will rise to $19,000 a year. New York City cannot afford to lose even more of our essential healthcare workers due to unequal pay. As a city, we must invest in our nurses and fix the structural issues that lead to these inequities so that now and in the future, our nurses are supported in their ability to provide the high-quality care all New Yorkers deserve."
State Senator Gustavo Rivera said: “I stand in solidarity with the more than 8,000 NYSNA nurses from our City’s public hospital system who are rightfully demanding fair contracts. These nurses are on the frontlines of public health crises while serving the most vulnerable New Yorkers and they deserve a safe, supportive workplace to provide the best possible care. I encourage all stakeholders to engage in good faith negotiations and seek a swift resolution.”
“It’s long past time to stop wasting millions upon millions of dollars on temporary traveling nurse contracts and start putting that money where it belongs–toward hiring and retaining permanent nurses who are invested in our communities.” said NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO President Vincent Alvarez. “Our City’s failure to do so has led to a crisis of understaffing that is actively undermining quality of patient care and threatening public health. The working people of New York City need a working healthcare system, and the New York City Labor Movement will continue to stand with our nearly 9,000 Health+Hospitals nurses in demanding a fair contract, with pay equity and fair funding, so that they can carry out their mission of providing exceptional, compassionate care to the patients and communities they serve."
“Nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system, and they deserve to be paid as such,” said Assemblymember Brian A. Cunningham. “Since the pandemic began, it has become abundantly clear that nurses are critically important to our health and well-being, and retaining skilled nurses is challenging when there is no pay parity. In districts like mine, knowledgeable, experienced, and culturally-competent nurses deserve compensation for their talents that is in alignment with the private sector.”
“Pay parity for our public sector nurses is a matter of worker, health, and racial equity,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “It’s a matter of respect and honor for the well-being of our public hospital patients – people who are families with lower incomes, who might not have insurance or citizenship, and Black and Brown New Yorkers who have been marginalized by our healthcare system for generations – and giving them the quality, lifesaving care everyone deserves. I urge Mayor Adams and our City to settle a fair contract with NYSNA and support our hard-working nurses.”
“As a former RN in our public hospitals, I know first-hand how crucial pay equity is in our fight to recruit and retain the best and brightest nurses to work in our city. The nation’s largest municipal health care delivery system should have nurses who are compensated fairly and equitably given the scope of their work. Public sector nurses, such as the ones who work tirelessly at Kings County Hospital, can no longer be treated as second-class healthcare professionals and immediately be provided the pay equity they have earned and fully deserve,” said City Council Member Mercedes Narcisse.
Additional upcoming actions include:
Saturday, June 24 at 12 noon: Henry J. Carter in Manhattan, 1752 Park Avenue
Tuesday, June 27 at 12:30 PM: Queens Hospital Center, 82-68 164th Street
Wednesday, June 28 at 1 PM: Harlem Hospital in Manhattan, 506 Lenox Ave
The New York State Nurses Association represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. NYSNA is an affiliate of National Nurses United, AFL-CIO, the country's largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses, with more than 225,000 members nationwide.