Newborns in the intensive care unit have come under fire during negotiations between Mount Sinai Hospital and the nurses’ union.

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CNN

Crucial union talks between Mount Sinai Hospital and the New York State Nurses Association appear to have stalled, and both sides say they refuse to return to the bargaining table.

As the dispute between the hospital and the union continues, the most vulnerable patients — newborns in Mount Sinai’s neonatal intensive care unit — are caught between the opposing sides and worried families, said a Mount Sinai nurse who declined to be named for fear of repercussions. CNN.

As thousands of New York City nurses went on strike Monday morning, one of Manhattan’s top hospitals announced Friday that it would transfer newborns from the intensive care unit to other area hospitals in preparation for the strike.

A Mount Sinai Health System spokesperson confirmed to CNN on Friday that babies in neonatal intensive care units will be transferred to other hospitals in the area due to the strike notice.

“We are looking for a solution [to the strike.] The impact is incredible,” the spokesperson told CNN.

A NICU nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital told CNN that families of patients in the unit are very concerned about transferring their sick babies from one hospital to another. Transferring babies to another facility can be “very stressful” for a NICU patient, said the nurse, as well as the parents.

“They’ve been asking us all week what’s going to happen with their baby and what’s going to happen next week,” the nurse said.

“It’s a big journey for a baby who’s never been out of the hospital,” she told CNN. “It’s not what we want to be. We want our babies to stay. We want to take care of them. It’s a bit surprising, and actually a bit maddening, that the hospital is letting itself go like this.

The more serious the baby’s condition, the more complicated and dangerous the transfer to another hospital, explains the nurse.

“You need at least a doctor or nurse, a respiratory therapist if the patient is on life support, and a transport nurse to operate the pumps and administer medications if needed,” he said.

Nurses who care for sick babies often connect with families and build trusting relationships with them, especially since some babies spend weeks or even months in the NICU, the nurse told CNN.

“They are comfortable leaving their children with us,” she said. “We keep in touch with their babies after they come home, so we have a close relationship with these families.”

“We treat our babies in the hospital like our own children. We are very protective of them,” he added.

Nancy Hagans, president of the New York State Nurses Association, said the goals of the negotiations are to improve patient care and staffing, achieve fair wages and recruit and retain nurses.

Negotiations between the health system and the nurses’ union have been ongoing since September, a Mount Sinai Health System spokeswoman told CNN on Saturday, but low staffing levels have plagued the neonatal intensive care unit for years. , the nurse told CNN.

“We have been understaffed for more than three years,” he said.

According to the nurse, the number of patients in the ward regularly rises and falls, but as the number of patients increases, the number of staff remains the same. The department can accommodate 64 patients, he said.

“You feel like you’re not giving your patients everything,” she says. “You’re really, really thin.”

According to the nurse, babies need special attention because unlike other patients – even small children – they cannot verbalize pain or discomfort.

“You really have to know their vital signs and their general assessment. And when you don’t spend the time you need to be with them, some things get overlooked,” he said. “And that’s really sad.”

CNN contacted the hospital over the nurse’s comments about understaffing.

More than 8,700 nurses are poised to strike Monday morning at several hospitals if a tentative contract is not reached, union president Hagans said at a virtual press conference Saturday morning.

Talks at New York hospitals continued Saturday at the Montefiore Bronx and Mount Sinai Morningside and West campuses, according to the nurses union.

But the president of the nurses’ union told reporters Saturday that the main complex at Mount Sinai Hospital was off the bargaining table Thursday evening and that no negotiations have been planned since then.

A spokesperson for Mount Sinai Health System told CNN that hospital management is “waiting for the union to get back to us” to continue negotiations.

The hospital said the union offered a negotiated settlement for New York-Presbyterian Hospital nurses during Thursday night’s negotiations. Preliminary agreements have also been reached with union nurses at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island.

Mount Sinai also said it would offer a 19.1% compound salary increase over three years, an offer similar to that offered by other hospital systems in the city.

A Mount Sinai NICU nurse said nurses in her unit do not want to strike and hope to reach an agreement with the hospital by Sunday evening.

“It breaks our hearts to knock and leave patients, but unfortunately sometimes you have to do drastic things,” he told CNN.

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