“Patient Care Is Our Priority,” Says NYC Nurse as Strike Continues to Second Day

We converse with one of many 7,000 nurses on strike now in New York Metropolis at two hospital programs that account for greater than 1 / 4 of all hospital beds within the metropolis, and a journalist who has documented how hospital CEOs are boosting their very own pay by thousands and thousands of {dollars} whereas slashing charity care. The strike started Monday after nurses failed to achieve a brand new contract settlement with Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Heart, with greater wages and higher staffing amongst their principal calls for. “If we don’t deal with this, we’ll proceed to see nurses leaving the workforce due to unsafe staffing,” says Sasha Winslow, a hanging nurse at Montefiore Medical Heart. The Lever’s Matthew Cunningham-Prepare dinner particulars his investigation into how hospital CEOs have obtained thousands and thousands in raises and perks whereas medical workers have been pushed to the breaking level throughout COVID.


It is a rush transcript. Copy is probably not in its last kind.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Warfare and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Right here in New York Metropolis, over 7,000 nurses are coming into their third day of a strike at two main hospital programs that account for greater than 1 / 4 of all hospital beds within the metropolis. They started hanging Monday after failing to achieve a brand new contract settlement with Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Heart over calls for for greater wages and higher staffing. The 2 programs have greater than 1,200 nurse vacancies between them.

That is New York State Nurses Affiliation President Nancy Hagans talking from the picket line Monday.

NANCY HAGANS: Nurses don’t need to strike. We’d moderately be inside caring for our sufferers, however safely, in a protected method, not the situation they’ve us working for the previous 5, 10 years. Sufficient is sufficient, Sinai! Sufficient is sufficient!

AMY GOODMAN: Some nurses have shared job postings that provide visiting, non-union nurses $300 an hour to cross the picket line — greater than 5 occasions the pay for a workers nurse. The nurses are additionally denouncing the inhumane remedy of sufferers, as some have been compelled to obtain medical care in hospital hallways as a result of overcrowding.

In the meantime, the New York State Nurses Affiliation urged folks to proceed looking for the care they want, writing, quote, “We admire solidarity from our sufferers — however going into the hospital to get the care you want is NOT crossing our strike line … We’re out right here so we will present [better patient care to you]!”

For extra, we’re joined by a type of nurses on strike, Sasha Winslow, high-risk labor supply nurse at Montefiore Medical Heart. Additionally with us, Matthew Cunningham-Prepare dinner, researcher and author for The Lever, whose new piece is headlined “As Nurses Strike, Hospital CEOs Pocket Hundreds of thousands.”

We welcome you each to Democracy Now! Sasha, let’s start with you. Describe the scene outdoors. Montefiore is within the Bronx, and Mount Sinai is in East Harlem on the Higher East Aspect. Are you able to describe the scene there and what you’re demanding?

SASHA WINSLOW: The scene at Montefiore, the place I’m situated, is filled with nurses who’re prideful and likewise excited that now we have come to the strike, due to the calls for which can be essential to us, which is staffing ratios and enforcement of these ratios with concrete language that is smart, and that these languages which can be going to be put in will hopefully include penalties to the hospitals.

I need to appropriate, so far as happiness goes: That is historic for most of the nurses at Monte, some who’ve been there for 40 years and haven’t skilled this earlier than. That is the primary for me. It’s crowded outdoors. It’s chilly. However we’re devoted to our sufferers, and affected person care is our precedence.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Sasha, I’d prefer to ask you — throughout the peak of the pandemic, nurses and different hospital employees have been continuously being celebrated as important employees, and hospitals acquired large quantities of support from the federal authorities. However anyone who’s been in a hospital, particularly in a hospital emergency room today, is aware of that the majority of them are woefully understaffed. Might you speak about how these staffing ranges have an effect on your potential to ship excellent care?

SASHA WINSLOW: So, I used to be a nurse who cared for sufferers throughout COVID. Staffing points have existed earlier than COVID. COVID solely uncovered to the general public what now we have skilled for years, and it simply worsened.

If you end up caring for sufferers, you need to present them with the utmost dignity and respect, and likewise having the ability to spend time with them. Sufferers have questions. Sufferers are scared. It is a very weak time for them. And when you find yourself understaffed, you’re unable to supply that one-to-one care with the affected person and addressing their wants, or with their households, in the event that they’re current, addressing their issues. I see and know nurses who work within the emergency room who’re caring for one to fifteen to twenty sufferers. That doesn’t bear in mind the acuity of the sufferers, some who’re ICU sufferers who’re ready to be transferred, med-surg sufferers who’re ready for beds and generally are within the ER for twenty-four to 48 hours.

It is a public well being emergency throughout the nation, as a result of there may be such a scarcity and a necessity for nurses on the bedside, significantly in New York. We’re, you already know, a neighborhood that’s stuffed with many individuals from around the globe. And we must be higher, you already know, higher at speaking with our workers and speaking with our neighborhood that that is what’s happening within the inside. And if we don’t deal with this, we’ll proceed to see nurses leaving the workforce due to unsafe staffing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wished to ask you about government compensation. Montefiore, like Mount Sinai, and lots of of those hospitals are supposedly nonprofit. They’re imagined to serve a public good, due to this fact they don’t get taxed. However but their executives make monumental salaries. Might you speak about your CEO, Dr. Philip Ozuah?

SASHA WINSLOW: So, sure, Montefiore and Mount Sinai are personal, not-for-profit hospitals. They’re tax-exempt. Sadly, our CNOs, our VPs of operations and our presidents of our hospitals make some huge cash, within the thousands and thousands, significantly Dr. Ozuah. That is all throughout the New York Publish and Crain’s newspapers. He made a revenue in 2020 of $13 million, $8 million to $13 million. Once I did my final report again in 2018, he profited $13 million and was additionally supplied a bonus of $9 million and an early retirement package deal. And as we will see, he by no means retired.

So, we see the disparity relating to wages and company greed, the place now we have our, you already know, high-level leaderships making tons of cash, and the employees — the nurses, the CNAs, our housekeepers, our lab technicians, our X-ray technicians — do not make that sort of cash. So, you do see the imbalance of energy and cash in our hospitals.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicely, let’s usher in Matthew Cunningham-Prepare dinner, who actually investigated this for The Lever, his piece, “As Nurses Strike, Hospital CEOs Pocket Hundreds of thousands.” Are you able to speak about what you present in your investigation, Matthew?

MATTHEW CUNNINGHAM-COOK: Yeah. I believe that one of many issues that was actually jarring for me is, it’s very unusual for hospitals to offer their executives first-class airfare and a chauffeur, and that’s what Montefiore does for not less than certainly one of its executives. They haven’t informed us which one. We assume it’s Dr. Ozuah. However, yeah, and over the previous decade, eight-and-a-half % annualized wage will increase for the CEO of Montefiore. In the meantime, the best form of quantity that nurses are getting in contract negotiations in New York Metropolis today is 7%. And that’s only for one 12 months. It’s going to go down to six and 5% for the next years. Mount Sinai, related form of disparities at work, the place they’ve had the identical CEO for the previous decade, 12-and-a-half % annualized raises over that point.

So, yeah, it’s — and with this monumental development in government compensation, you see a lower within the quantity of free or discounted care supplied to sufferers. So, Montefiore’s charity care has gone down by 23% within the decade, and Mount Sinai’s has gone down by 50% within the decade when it comes to charity care spending as a share of whole hospital bills.

I believe what it underscores is how these hospital CEOs are so disconnected from the truth of what’s occurring on the bottom. And regardless of the huge tax exemptions that they’re granted, they’re way more interested by lining their very own pockets than in really supporting the individuals who really present care.

Executives, folks within the C-suite, don’t really do something associated to affected person care. They’re successfully parasites off of the nurses and the devoted healthcare employees in New York Metropolis and throughout the nation. However their compensation doesn’t mirror that reality in any respect. And it’s an enormous downside, and I believe it’s why you see this nurses’ strike, the place — you already know, I used to work for a nurses’ union for a few years. Nurses don’t ever need to go on strike. It goes towards the core of their being. And the slogan is, you already know, “If nurses are on the surface, there’s one thing flawed on the within.” And on this case, I believe there’s one thing very critically flawed about each Mount Sinai and Montefiore.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Matthew, I wished to ask you about this — once more, about this nonprofit concern with these hospital chains, which is what they’re. They typically have large reserves of cash and sometimes have them invested offshore or have important investments offshore within the Cayman Islands or different locations, that are clearly tax havens. What have you ever present in your analysis on this?

MATTHEW CUNNINGHAM-COOK: Yeah, so, yeah, Mount Sinai experiences that they’ve $68 million in investments in Central America, within the Caribbean area. That nearly at all times means the Cayman Islands or Bermuda or different — or the British Virgin Islands or wherever, are usually tax shelters. Montefiore has virtually $200 million invested in hedge funds and in personal fairness.

And once more, you already know, that is coming as nurses are coping with 20 sufferers within the ED. And it’s very easy to workers hospitals extra successfully. It’s doable. When California applied nurse-to-patient ratios in 2004, the hospitals had spent a five-year authorized battle attempting to cease — the laws initially handed in 1999, and the hospitals had spent a five-year authorized and political battle trying to cease the ratios from being applied, saying that it could have been unattainable for them to fulfill the ratios. Nicely, the ratios got here in, after which they have been there, as a result of they raised nurse pay and advantages to have the ability to retain and appeal to certified registered nurses to the bedside. So, it’s a really form of easy concern of {dollars} and cents to adequately workers hospitals.

And so, when you could have tons of of thousands and thousands of {dollars}, in Montefiore’s case, and tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars}, in Mount Sinai’s case, invested in dangerous offshore entities, that’s cash that’s coming straight away from affected person care on the bedside.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you able to additionally speak about this controversy over the New York governor, who simply gave her State of the State deal with yesterday, after her election, Kathy Hochul, eager to fill the opening for chief decide of New York, the New York state Court docket of Appeals, with Hector LaSalle, who’s backed rulings that help these companies —


AMY GOODMAN: — and suing union leaders?

MATTHEW CUNNINGHAM-COOK: Yeah, yeah. I imply, what the again story is, is about seven or eight years in the past, the communications employees and Cablevision, which is owned by the Dolan household, have been locked in an enormous dispute over a primary contract for a bunch of about 200 employees. And Cablevision was so mad on the union for organizing their employees that they really determined to sue labor leaders. And Decide LaSalle was a part of a panel that voted to permit that case to go ahead, which is harmful for a bunch of causes, however specifically is this concept you could take jurisdiction over labor relations away from the Nationwide Labor Relations Board, which is a sacrosanct tenet of U.S. labor relations coverage for the final 85 years. And so — and it’s one thing, actually, that I believe you’ll see extra from a Rand Paul-style decide than from a Democratic decide in New York state or a Democratic-aligned decide in New York state. So, yeah, it’s very attention-grabbing that Governor Hochul is making this nomination right now.

I believe it’s additionally attention-grabbing that she pushed the union and the hospitals to go to binding arbitration. Usually, you already know, if she had actually wished to forestall a strike, she may have stepped in herself and tried to arbitrate the dispute, or directed her well being commissioner to step in and arbitrate the dispute. However she didn’t try this. As an alternative, she was advocating that the union comply with an arbitrator that would implement a contract for 5, six years that doesn’t meet the calls for of nurses, making the issues considerably worse. So, I believe, once more, what it underscores is, is, sadly, Democratic management in New York state actually appear to be disconnected — particularly Governor Hochul appears to be disconnected — from the truth of what employees are dealing with on the bottom.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wished to ask Sasha Winslow: What’s the standing of talks proper now? You’re within the second day of your strike. What are you asking the general public to do? And — I’m sorry, third day of your strike. And what are you asking the general public to do? And is the administration responding to any of your calls for?

SASHA WINSLOW: So, within the third day of strike, our government committee are persevering with to have the talks with administration. The difficulty lies within the enforcement of staffing-nurse ratio. That may be a large concern that, surprisingly, administration and our leaders within the hospital are giving such backlash to. And that is one thing that’s essential. That is one thing that impacts how we offer care, and impacts our neighborhood.

The help that will be very useful for our neighborhood is writing your letters. In the event you have been a affected person at Montefiore, how was your care? Was there any delay in care, any missed care that you just skilled due to staffing points? We noticed that work in California when the regulation was handed in 2004, that the neighborhood rallied with the nurses by their testimonies and by their letters of their experiences within the hospitals.

So, that is vital for us, and this is the reason we’re hanging. We’re combating for staff-to-nurse ratios and enforcement language that will maintain hospitals accountable for not adhering to staffing ratios. That’s wanted to guard the sufferers.

AMY GOODMAN: And at last, Matthew Cunningham-Prepare dinner, now we have lower than a minute, however you wrote a story on a considerably completely different topic known as “Crypto Bros Need Your 401(okay),” through which you observe the regardless of FTX’s collapse, a lawsuit is attempting to drive regulators to permit crypto into the retirement market. Lay out what you discovered, on this final minute.

MATTHEW CUNNINGHAM-COOK: Yeah. What we discovered is that certainly one of Sam Bankman-Fried’s backers, this enterprise capital agency Ribbit Capital, can also be backing this firm, ForUsAll, a 401(okay) providers firm, that’s suing the Biden Labor Division for a steering that really helpful towards crypto investments in 401(okay)s. And I believe what the case actually underscores is how the crypto market can’t survive with no huge inflow of recent money from unusual, unsophisticated buyers, like 401(okay) holders. And, yeah, the case is presently worming its approach by means of federal courts however, I believe, comes together with this push for pro-crypto regulation coming from people like Senator Cynthia Lummis, who’re actually simply attempting to grease the wheels for a considerable amount of unusual Individuals to place their cash right into a extremely dangerous, extremely speculative asset with no underlying worth.

AMY GOODMAN: Nicely, we’re going to hyperlink to your pieces at democracynow.org. Matthew Cunningham-Prepare dinner writes for The Lever. We’ll hyperlink to his piece, “Hospital CEOs Pocket Hundreds of thousands,” “The Battle over the Aspect-Letter Rip-off,” and “Crypto Bros Need Your 401(okay).” We additionally need to thank Sasha Winslow, hanging high-risk labor supply nurse at Montefiore Medical Heart.

That does it for our present. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks a lot for becoming a member of us.