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Higher pay for temp nurses costs millions in New York City, union says: ‘It’s a slap in the face’


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The high turnover and hiring of so-called mobile nurses at Jacobi Medical Center is likely to cost the city tens of millions of dollars a year in additional costs, according to sources with the New York State Nurses Association, which represents the staff. of the hospital.

His claim is based on internal hospital staff data showing that, between November 2022 and January 2023, Jacobi employed a total of 146 traveling or “agency” nurses, who are not technically permanent members of the hospital staff.

Agency nurses can earn substantially more in annual salary than regular staff nurses, according to Kristle Simms-Murphy, who has worked as a nurse practitioner at Jacobi for 16 years.

“It’s a slap in the face,” he said. “We train these agency nurses, and they come and make more than we make.”

The data, which NYSNA shared with the Daily News amid contract negotiations with the city’s public health network and hospitals, also suggests the city is spending millions more on roaming nurses than on staff nurses at its other public hospitals. . When applied to the city’s 10 other hospitals, that spending could translate into hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs.

“A conservative estimate is that the city is spending between $18.5 million and $24.2 million per year on roving nurses/agencies for Jacobi Hospital alone,” NYSNA spokeswoman Kristi Barnes told The News.

Barnes, who cited fragmented city data as well as data published in a hospital trade publication last yearHe noted that Health + Hospitals has yet to give NYSNA a full, official accounting of how much it spends on traveling nurses, but said that, on average, they earn two to three times as much as nurses who are on staff permanently. .

He noted that the union’s estimates are based on all currently available data and said they are “conservative.”

The city’s Health + Hospitals network is now involved in intermittent contract negotiations with NYSNA. The union submitted a full proposal to H+H on March 7, and in a subsequent negotiation on March 14, the city broke off talks in the middle of the day, Barnes said. The next negotiation is set for April 4.

The talks come two months after union members went on strike at two private city hospitals: Mount Sinai in Manhattan and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. The strikes eventually led to contracts, but they rattled the city’s healthcare infrastructure and showed that NYSNA was willing to go to the mattresses for its workers.

The main bone of contention with H+H is likely to be pay parity between nurses in public hospitals compared to their private counterparts, as well as nursing staffing levels, which the union says are too low.

NYSNA members expected to testify before City Council on Tuesday about the budget for city hospitals.

An H+H spokesman did not immediately respond to questions.

“Nurses are on the front lines of our health care system, and we all witnessed their heroic actions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are incredibly grateful for the hard work, dedication and sacrifice our highly-skilled nurses put in every day and welcome new opportunities to strengthen our partnership with NYSNA and the nurses who are so essential,” said Kate Smart, spokesperson for Mayor Adams. . .

“The city meets regularly with NYSNA and has several meetings scheduled on the books for the next few weeks as we work to finalize a new contract.”

Nursing staff at public hospitals are also leaving at an alarming rate, according to Simms-Murphy and Barnes, thanks to the higher pay they can take home from the city’s private hospitals.

Nurses from the New York State Nurse Practitioners Association attend a press conference on the Covid-19 public health crisis affecting Jacobi Medical Center and other New York hospital health facilities on January 13, 2022 at the New York City.

“Health + Hospitals is paying for that training, but you’re losing your investment,” Simms-Murphy said. “We can’t keep the nurses.”

Citing internal hospital data, he said about 250 nurses resigned from Jacobi last year, and only about 70 of those were people who retired. Many of the others who left did so because they could demand better pay elsewhere, she said.

“They tell me they can’t afford to work here,” Simms-Murphy said. “It means that there is a lack of continuous care. It means the staff don’t know our patients. They don’t know the ins and outs of the hospital.”

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