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Flushing Hospital nurses rally for raise

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More than 400 nurses at Flushing Hospital are demanding pay raises they say they deserve after years of making concessions in previous contracts despite an increased workload.

The New York Nurses Association, which represents the nurses at the hospital, held rallies outside the medical center for several days last week amid a stalemate in negotiations with the Medisys Network, which administers Flushing Hospital.

Joanne Murray, a registered nurse, said negotiations have been going on since January, but little progress has been made. The nurses’ current two-year contract expires at the end of the year.

“We’re just looking for a fair contract. We have had several contracts with [Medisys] since they took us over and we’ve made concessions in each of those contracts,” Murray said. “Because of those concessions, we are the lowest-paid hospital in Queens.”

A spokesman for Flushing Hospital said negotiations are ongoing, but the nurses’ current wages are competitive with other hospitals in the borough. The two sides were expected to meet again Wednesday.

Murray said the closure of St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals earlier this year has had a significant impact on Flushing, but while patient load has increased, staff has not.

“The ER has taken quite a hit,” Murray said. “The nurse-patient ratio is not just ideal. Patients that are admitted to the hospital are sicker than they have been in the past. The onus is on the facility to get them better and get them out, but without additional help, that gets more difficult.”

This is not the first time labor negotiations have hit a standstill in the health care industry in Queens this year. In February, a threatened three-day nurses strike was narrowly averted at neighboring New York Hospital Queens.

Murray said she remains optimistic about negotiations, but thus far they have not been fruitful.

“Of course, we hope they come back with something better this week,” Murray said. “We worked quite hard, quite late into the evening at our last session. And we left the table where they’re not really close to where they need to be.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 6:34 pm, October 10, 2011
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