The NYSNA represents around 42,000 nurses all over the state. They filed their lawsuit with the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) offices in New York, and it targets several hospitals in New York City, including the Brooklyn Interfaith Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital and several hospitals in the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System.
The NYSNA has also filed a separate charge against the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, New York, to compel them to release their data on nurse infections.
The NLRB will seek to facilitate some kind of agreement between the union and the hospitals. If a settlement can't be reached, the board will decide whether to file a legal complaint before an administrative law judge that will compel the hospitals to provide the NYSNA with their requested information.
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The NYSNA has claimed that, since March, they have been trying to get hospitals to reveal tallies of how many union nurses have reported COVID-19 symptoms, been tested, tested positive and have been told to take time off work to recover. Their efforts have met little success. The union believes that the information these hospitals have refused to provide is critical for understanding how the first coronavirus surge occurred in New York, and that this data can help prevent such an event from happening again during a possible second wave of infections.
While the union has tried to gather its own data, they have admitted that what they know is incomplete. From what they could learn, more than 2,000 union nurses had fallen ill or had to leave work for other coronavirus-related reasons at two hospital systems. Their own tally states that at least 22 of their members have succumbed to the disease.
Fortunately for the union, some hospitals were more forthcoming about their data, such as the Montefiore Health System, which operates a series of hospitals in Westchester County, the lower Hudson Valley and the hard-hit Bronx. According to them, some 1,249 union nurses, or 27 percent of the health system's entire nursing staff, took coronavirus-related time off the job at some point since early March, and around 13 percent of their nursing labor force tested positive for COVID-19.
The other hospitals that were sued haven't been as forthcoming. The Interfaith Medical Center said that they will comply with the union's request, but have yet to do so. The Westchester Medical Center said that they have already shared their data with the NYSNA and that their rate of positive test results among their staff is either “consistent with or lower than community spread.”
The other hospitals the union sued have yet to comment on the issue.
This is not the first time that the union has sued the New York state government during the coronavirus crisis. Back in April, the NYSNA filed multiple lawsuits accusing the state, as well as two hospitals, of “compromising the health and safety” of union nurses dealing with the pandemic. According to Pat Kane, the NYSNA's executive director, 70 percent of the union's members were exposed to the coronavirus and many of them hadn't been tested yet. (Related: Cuomo claims nursing home outbreaks spread by workers, not his directive that FORCED facilities to bring in more coronavirus patients.)
And in late June, the NYSNA echoed the Black Lives Matter movement's desire to defund and abolish law enforcement organizations by calling for part of the New York Police Department's (NYPD) budget to be diverted to hospitals, supposedly as a way of addressing “racial disparities in healthcare.”
Furthermore, the union called on the state to increase the share of taxes levied on the ultra-wealthy and to place a tax on the purchase of second and third homes as a way to provide more funding for the state's healthcare systems.
According to the union's demands, they want $2 billion diverted to hospitals from the NYPD, jails and prosecutors' offices, and for the new taxes on the rich to generate more than $30 billion in revenue.
The call for increased funding comes after statistics showed that Black and Hispanic patients had poorer health outcomes after dealing with the coronavirus, and poorer healthcare outcomes in general.
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