A nursing strike at two of New York City’s largest hospitals has entered its second day – with a union official saying progress is being made towards a possible settlement at one of them.

The hospitals, Montefiore Medical Centre and Mount Sinai Hospital, have postponed nonemergency surgeries, diverted ambulances to other medical centres, pulled in temporary staffers and assigned administrators with nursing backgrounds to work in wards in order to cope with the walkout of up to 7,100 nurses.

Progress is being made toward a settlement at Montefiore, Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, a union official and nurse at the Bronx hospital system said on Tuesday.

On the picket line outside, nurses said they had to strike because chronic understaffing leaves them caring for too many patients.

“We’re tired now — overwhelmed. Nurses are burned out,” said Saffie Sesay, an A&E worker at the hospital. “It’s just getting worse.”

Meanwhile, as of noon, negotiations had not yet resumed at Mount Sinai Hospital on Manhattan’s east side.

Hospital spokeswoman Lucia Lee expressed hope talks could soon resume with the union, the New York State Nurses Association.

“The impact is being felt,” she said of the walkout.

Montefiore and Mount Sinai are the last of a group of hospitals with nursing contracts that expired simultaneously.

The union initially said it would strike at all of them at the same time but the other hospitals reached agreements as a Monday strike deadline approached.

All include pay rises of 7%, 6% and 5% respectively over the next three years.

Nurses on the picket lines said staffing levels are a bigger issue than pay.

New York City’s nurses were hailed as heroes in the spring of 2020 when the city was an epicentre of deaths from Covid-19.

Now they say they are being burned out by poor staffing levels, which have been a problem for years.

“Remember, even prior to (the) pandemic we’re already short of staff,” said Mount Sinai nurse Nagie Pamphil.

She said nurses on her unit are now expected to care for twice as many patients as they can safely handle.

“That’s impossible,” she said.

Montefiore said it has agreed to add 170 more nurses.

Mount Sinai’s administration said the union’s focus on nurse-to-patient ratios “ignores the progress we have made to attract and hire more new nurses, despite a global shortage of healthcare workers that is impacting hospitals across the country”. – AP

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