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S.I. University Hospital nurses authorize strike

Northwell, union appear far apart


Nurses at Staten Island University Hospital say they’re sick of being asked to take on several roles at once because of persistent understaffing, and have voted in favor of going on strike, the New York State Nurses Association said Wednesday.

The contract for about 1,300 nurses at the Staten Island hospital expires March 31. NYSNA and Northwell Health, which runs the facility, have been bargaining since December, but the nurses said that their demands for significant raises and safe-staffing ratios have been rejected. 

More than 97 percent of nurses who participated in the strike vote approved taking action unless the two sides reach a fair contract agreement.

During a rally outside of the hospital’s Ocean Breeze facility, nurse Adriana DeLeon said she’s one of the most experienced in her units despite only having worked there for two years.

“That is because the turnover rate is ridiculous. People are leaving where they’re paying them more, people are leaving where they’re treating them better,” she said. “I’m here to stand up for our community, for our patients, because they deserve better.”

The base pay for nurses at Staten Island University Hospital is $11,573 less than the average nurse salary at other hospitals in the city, according to NYSNA. Northwell has proposed 3-percent raises for this year and next, and 4-percent salary bumps in 2026, much less than the union’s demands. NYSNA is seeking a 12-percent raise for this year, and a 10-percent increase in 2025.

The union slammed Northwell for its offer, pointing to the announcement last month that the health-care provider, already the state’s largest, plans to merge with Nuvance Health. “But they claim they don’t have money to invest on Staten Island. We are saying that’s not true,” NYSNA’s president, Nancy Hagans, said.

The union also criticized the hospital management’s decision in 2021 to eliminate satellite pharmacists, who were stationed on several floors throughout the hospital.

“Nurses shouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck while keeping Staten Island safe and healthy. And Northwell shouldn’t be making cuts that make your job even harder,” Hagans said.

In a statement, Northwell said that “our goal is to reach an agreement that continues to provide our valued nurses with competitive compensation and benefits and ensures a safe, supportive working environment that enables them to provide exceptional care that our patients and community have come to trust. We remain optimistic that an agreement can be reached and look forward to positive and productive ongoing negotiations. ”

‘7,000 different things'

Sheila Ramos, who has worked as a nurse for 37 years, said that even more than money, safe-staffing is a key priority. She said that Northwell officials frequently ask nurses to float to units they are unfamiliar with.

“They want us to do everything, to be a jack-of-all-trades yet a master of none. We are specialty nurses,” she said.

Shayna Lehrer, a nurse who has been at the hospital for a year and half, said that Northwell has been putting more and more pressure on the nurses.

“We’re responsible for 7,000 different things — we’re dietary, we’re environmental, we’re physical therapists — they keep saying there’s a nursing shortage. There’s no nursing shortage; they don’t want to hire anybody,” she said. “I chose to come to Staten Island University Hospital because I live here. I want to serve my family members, my neighbors.”

The nurses were joined by Vinny Alvarez, the president of the New York City Central Labor Council, who came out to support their fight for a contract.

Pat Kane, NYSNA’s executive director, pointed out the numerous environmental challenges impacting Staten Island residents’ health, meaning that the nurses often cared for patients with “complicated” conditions.

“This is the only borough without an acute care New York City public hospital. We don’t have all of the resources that the rest of the city has,” she said. 

Northwell “forgot their basic mission, which isn’t to grow,” Kane added. “This is about dignity and respect — respect for the frontline workers, and most of all, respect for the community of Staten Island.”


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