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Thousands of nurses end strikes at 2 New York City hospitals

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A three-day nurses strike at two major New York City hospitals is over. Both Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospitals announced early this morning that they had reached a tentative deal with more than 7,000 striking nurses. Quote, "This is a historic victory for nurses across the country" - that is according to a union statement. Joining us this morning to talk about the deal is Fran Cartwright, chief nursing officer at Mount Sinai. She's a member of Mount Sinai's management and was at the negotiating table the whole time. Good morning.

FRAN CARTWRIGHT: Good morning.

FADEL: So what were the terms of the deal?

CARTWRIGHT: Or proposed agreement is very similar to those between NYSNA and eight other New York City hospitals. And it's very fair, and it demonstrates how much we value our nurses and how we put our patients first. And, you know, we're just very grateful to Governor Hochul and her staff and the elected officials for their support and also the negotiation team, where we really collaboratively worked together to make so many investments that's going to support our Mount Sinai nurses but also support our patients, where their safety is our first priority.

FADEL: Did the deal specifically address the union's grievances regarding staff shortages in patient care? I mean, nurses were describing what they said were dangerous conditions, with as many as 15 patients assigned to one nurse.

CARTWRIGHT: First of all, I think the truth counts. So in terms of looking at the - our interpatient assignment and the numbers. While our staffing is challenged, I will just say, with the agreement that we came to, we have very good staffing grids, which we, you know, reviewed with our NYSNA executive team, and we have enforcement language and - that's the same or even better than what NYSNA agreed to with the eight other hospitals. And this staffing enforcement provides a real pathway to binding arbitration.

FADEL: Fran, what was the biggest sticking point to securing the deal with the union?

CARTWRIGHT: So we actually came to an agreement, and this agreement also did include staffing grids, with staffing enforcement language that is the same or better than what NYSNA agreed to with the eight other hospitals. And the staffing enforcement proposal provides a pathway to binding arbitration. And one of the things that we also have been working very, very collaborative through the negotiations with our NYSNA executive team, as well as our Mount Sinai nurses, is with recognition that the pandemic surge, it resulted in a national workforce crisis.

FADEL: Yeah.

CARTWRIGHT: And, you know, nurses who care for patients 24-7, they feel it the most. Nationally, our experienced nurses have left the bedside - we know this - to retire early, to return to positions in their home community. And many also love to become travelers. So nationwide and especially in - with academic medical centers, we're now grappling with, how do we retain nurses as we replace the experienced nurses who've left for all of these reasons?

FADEL: Fran Cartwright of Mount Sinai Hospital. Thank you so much for your time.

CARTWRIGHT: Thank you so very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.