Filipino American nurses who participated in the Monday walkout of over 7,000 nurses in New York City have earned the support of the city’s Philippine consulate.
Nurses walked out from Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan to protest against staffing issues that have reportedly impeded them from performing their duties properly.
“What we are asking for is for safe staffing and quality care for patients. We don’t think we are asking for too much,” said New York State Nurses Association President Nancy Hagan.
The strike continued for a third day on Wednesday, leaving the two hospitals operating with minimal staffs.
On Tuesday, the Philippine Consulate General released a statement expressing support for the strikes as well as the 1,000 Filipino nurses employed in the two hospitals who were affected by the resulting shutdown.
“The Philippine Consulate General in New York supports the clamor of Filipino-American nurses, employed in Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, for better wages and working conditions,” the statement read.
“When New York City became the epicenter of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, our kababayan nurses stayed true to their oath to care for the sick and the dying, sometimes at the expense of their very own lives. For their compassion, dedication, and selflessness, their call for better employment terms and conditions should be heeded,” the consulate added.
Filipinos, who comprise 4 percent of nurses in the U.S. based on 2020 data, registered the highest rate of nurse deaths due to COVID-19 at 31.5 percent. A study by the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative found that nurses from the Philippines had a higher likelihood of infection because they made up a significant percentage of the frontline workers tasked with assisting patients at the height of the pandemic.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, a Filipino nurse explained that the strike is not just about wages.
“This is something that we feel very, very strongly about,” Lorena Vivas, a nurse and an executive committee member of the New York State Nurses Association for Mount Sinai Hospital, was quoted as saying. “It’s not even about wage…That is not the case, the fight here is not the wages but for safe staffing.”
Vivas said the nurses will remain in the picket lines unless their demands for “safe staffing” are met. She pointed out that her hospital has “an anomalous 550 nursing vacancy,” which she argues is not due to COVID-19 as they have been “systemically understaffed by the hospital for the past six, seven years.”
The nurses who aren’t able to leave their patients reportedly end up overworking and sacrificing their breaks. According to Vivas, instead of the safe standard of handling just two patients at a time, their responsibilities are constantly “tripled or quadrupled.”
Both hospitals reportedly offered the nurses a 19.1 percent compounded wage increase, but Vivas said their demands for safer work environments “have fallen on deaf ears.”
“NYSNA leadership walked out of negotiations shortly after 1 a.m. ET, refusing to accept the exact same 19.1% increased wage offer agreed to by eight other hospitals, including two other Mount Sinai Health System campuses, and disregarding the governor’s solution to avoid a strike,” Lucia Lee, a spokesperson for Mount Sinai, told CNN in a statement.
As of Tuesday, bargaining discussions between the nurses and managers at Montefiore have reportedly resumed while talks at Mount Sinai have reached a deadlock.