Health

Inside Elmhurst Hospital, midwives fight to unionize

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“We’re just super, super thin, and we need more people,” she said.

The situation prompted McNamara and her fellow midwives to vote two years ago to join the New York State Nursing Association, which represents 42,000 nurses, including in Elmhurst.

Since then, they have put forward two proposals for Mount Sinai, McNamara said, but have not yet secured a contract. She said the midwives think Mount Sinai is hindering them.

“Mount Sinai has been unable to offer midwives a fair contract for over two years,” said Karl Ginsburg, a union spokesman. “The time to respect these midwives is long gone.”

A Mount Sinai spokeswoman called the accusation of dropping barriers “insincere” and said midwives have received “fairly regular annual increases over the past several years.” She said the system will submit a counter-proposal to the union on Thursday, which has been approved by Health + Hospitals, that must sign any contract with midwives.

Health + Hospitals spokesman Christopher Miller said they hope to reach an “amicable solution” with midwives.

“Women’s health is very important at NYC Health + Hospitals / Elmhurst and the role of our midwives is important in this process,” he said in a statement.

The negotiation process began in 2019, when Elmhurst’s midwives first requested the same conditions provided to midwives at Mount Sinai Hospital. Margaret Re, Elmhurst’s head midwife, said the system had failed.

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Earlier this year, midwives at Health + Hospitals / North Central Bronx signed their own union contract, just as Elmhurst’s midwives had envisioned.

McNamara and Ryo recalled that Elmhurst’s midwives had given Mount Sinai a copy. They agreed to meet in May to discuss this, Ryo said, but Mount Sinai was canceled. She said Mount Sinai also canceled a rescheduled mid-July meeting because the health care system had not yet considered the offer.

A Mount Sinai spokeswoman said the negotiations were progressing slowly due to the pandemic and the time it took for the union to respond. NYSNA, she said, “did not make an economic proposal.”

A spokeswoman said Mount Sinai met in June to review the latest offer from midwives – modeled on a contract with midwives from the Bronx – but Health + Hospitals still needs to review it. Mount Sinai tried to make an additional appointment, the spokeswoman said, but the midwives refused.

Over the weekend, midwives began collectively giving up overtime, an act of protest to prove themselves indispensable and secure a fair contract, Re said.

Ryo, who has worked at Elmhurst for 23 years, said their requirements include a starting salary of about $ 100,000, additional cost of living increases, retirement benefits, and improved health care.

McNamara said staff shortages have already forced them to cut programs such as group antenatal classes. She hopes the union contract will help the midwife team return to adequate staffing levels and provide better patient care.

“We’re not asking for anything crazy,” she said.


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