New York City hospitals diverting ambulances and canceling surgeries ahead of nurses strike

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Health care workers watch a rally by NYSNA nurses from NY Presbyterian and Mount Sinai from an overpass at Mount Sinai Hospital, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in New York. Mary Altaffer/AP

New York City hospitals diverting ambulances and canceling surgeries ahead of nurses strike

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Several hospitals in New York City are starting to divert a majority of ambulances away from their facilities and canceling some elective surgeries ahead of a tentative nurses strike scheduled to begin on Monday.

Leaders of Mount Sinai Health System informed staff that they have “no choice” but to begin transferring patients, including babies, from its neonatal intensive care units to other hospital systems as contract negotiations continue with nurses.

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“To do what is best for our patients, we have no choice but to proceed with our strike planning,” read an internal memo to staff Wednesday, obtained by NBC New York.

The hospital system will also cancel all elective surgeries, keeping only emergency ones, at affected hospitals, a spokesperson for the hospital system confirmed. Some patients who are eligible will also be discharged as the hospital prepares to cut service.

Thousands of nurses from five private hospitals, including Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai Morningside, are set to walk off the job next week if negotiations with hospital leaders are not resolved. The New York State Nurses Association has called for increased wages and improved staff-to-patient ratios in several units, arguing that it will enhance patient safety and staff retention.

Three hospitals, Maimonides Health, Richmond University Medical Center, and New York-Presbyterian, have already reached tentative contract agreements with the union.

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“We are pleased to reach a tentative agreement that recognizes the essential contributions of our indispensable nursing staff. We believe this agreement is fair and respects the needs of all parties while also helping us better serve our patients,” said Maimonides Health CEO Ken Gibbs and New York State Nurses Association President Nancy Hagans in a statement Thursday.

The planned strike comes as the hospitals continue to deal with an onslaught of respiratory viruses, including flu, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and COVID-19. Seasonal flu activity remains high in most areas of the country, though it appears to be declining after an early surge in cases late last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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