‘It’s extraordinarily painful’: US nurses strike over pandemic pressures

‘It’s extraordinarily painful’: US nurses strike over pandemic pressures

Two-day stoppage in New York over labour shortages and dodgy personal protective equipment

The Montefiore medical centre in the New York City suburb of New Rochelle is known as a safety-net hospital because it cares for patients regardless of their ability to pay. For nurses at the facility, that has translated into a crushing burden during the coronavirus pandemic.

This month, about 200 union-represented nurses at the privately owned hospital staged a two-day strike, picketing for 12 hours at a time to protest against working conditions they said had made their lives nearly impossible.

As the number of Covid-19 patients surged, they claimed, the hospital pushed nurses to care for too many people at one time and handed out personal protective equipment (PPE) that gave off a harsh chemical smell and left some staff with rashes.

“If you can safely care for one or two patients, but you’re given four or five, you have to make some decisions about who you’re going to rescue,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, president of the nurses’ union at the hospital. “That is just a horrible thing for health professionals to confront.”