In a furious address Monday in support of the approximately 7,000 nurses on strike at two New York City hospitals, New York Attorney General Letitia James stated that the action was not about money, but about safety.
Joining the picket line outside Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, James reminded listeners that it was nurses who stayed at patients’ sides when lockdown restrictions banned visitors in 2020, when New York City became the COVID-19 pandemic’s epicentre. She claimed that “not one elected official was around” at nursing homes, despite the fact that nurses were a constant at the time.
The nursing strike comes as COVID-19 deaths in New York state have increased by 30% in the last month, reaching their highest level since the start of 2022.
“It was nurses who were there every day, some days without PPE, putting their own safety at risk,” James explained. “That is why the attorney general has come to speak on behalf of the nurses, because I know what they did. I know what they did in hospitals as well as nursing homes. I know how many people were killed. I recall the bodies. I recall the caskets. And none of you were there. There was no elected official present, but the only people that remained and remained consistent were nurses!”
“The nurses stood with this city, this state, and this country during a moment when we most needed them, which is why I’m here today. They gave up not only their own safety but also the safety of their loved ones. They supported us at our hardest moments, therefore I am here for them now too, James added. “Nurses held the hands of family members who were dying when loved ones couldn’t get to them. Nurses were the ones who recorded films and distributed them to relatives. In essence, nurses were the ones who informed families of their loved ones’ conditions.
Mount Sinai Hospital alone has 550 openings, and nurses who are only supposed to care for two intensive care unit patients at a time have been pushed to care for several more and work long hours to make up for lengthy staffing shortages. Nurses at Montefiore were also on strike on Monday.
They do it because wearing red symbolises compassion, heart, and their commitment to the cause. Money is not the issue here. It’s not about the money, to be clear,” James continued. The enforcement of the law is the one subject that they care about most, my friends.
The implementation of patient-to-nurse ratios was mandated by a law approved in New York state last year, but James claimed it was never enforced, forcing nurses to care for too many patients at once “at the hazard” of both the patients and themselves.
“There are no valid reasons why you can’t find enough staff. That is a defence. And we reject that justification and will not accept it. You can enrol in nursing programmes, “James noted that temporary nurses had been hired in preparation for the strike while full-time nurses are on the picket lines. The attorney general remarked, “If you can do it now, you should have done it then.” “This strike is focused on safety rather than money. Safety, not money.”
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