Nurses strike: Mount Sinai NICU mom stays by her son’s side in hospital after his primary nurses leave to strike

Nurses strike: Mount Sinai NICU mom stays by her son’s side in hospital after his primary nurses leave to strike

New York CNN –

Lora Ribas has not left her son’s bed for four days.

Her one-year-old baby, Logan, has been in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) since he was born. For three and a half months, he has been under the care of Mount Sinai Hospital, where thousands of nurses are currently on strike.

Logan was born prematurely at 27 weeks and is on a ventilator because his lungs were underdeveloped.

Mount Sinai’s NICU has been chronically understaffed even before the strike, Ribas said. But since Mount Sinai nurses began knocking Monday, new travel nurses have replaced Logan’s primary care nurses — nurses who don’t fully understand her son’s needs, she said.

Ribas said she is too scared to leave her son alone in the care of young travel nurses. She took a leave from work to stay by his side.

“It’s scary to think that I can’t even go to the bathroom without worrying,” Ribas told CNN.

Although the travel nurses are trying to compensate, they “don’t really know my son” and are still learning where the supplies are around the unit, Ribas said.

They are unable to give him individual care due to staff shortages, according to the mum, and she said staffing levels are even lower at night.

Two nurses currently working inside Mount Sinai Hospital told CNN on Monday that additional traveling nurses have not shown up as expected on their floors to replace nurses who are on strike, causing stress for patients and staff.

Mount Sinai Health System did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

In preparation for the strike, Mount Sinai announced Friday that it would transport newborns in its intensive care unit to other area hospitals. But the most critical babies — like Logan — have stayed in the hospital’s NICU unit. A NICU nurse at Mount Sinai, who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, said moving a NICU baby to another hospital can be a risky move.

“It’s a big journey for a baby who’s never been out of the hospital,” she told CNN. “It’s not something we want to happen. We want our children to stay.”

The more critical the baby’s condition, the more complicated the transfer to another hospital becomes, the nurse explained.

“You’ll need at least one doctor or nurse, a respiratory therapist if the patient is on respiratory support, and a transport nurse to work the pumps and administer medication if needed,” she said.

Ribas said her son’s main nurses, who are now on strike, were heartbroken they had to leave him and had called to check on his status.

“He has really wonderful primary care nurses,” she said. “They were in tears that they had to leave because my baby went into cardiac arrest two days before the strike happened, and so now I’m dealing with that plus the lack of staff. Which is very scary.”

The nurses’ strike at New York City’s two private hospitals — Montefiore and Mount Sinai — involving more than 7,000 nurses entered its second day Tuesday. Montefiore said he was holding negotiating sessions on Tuesday. Mount Sinai has no plans to do so, according to the nurses’ union.

The sticking point continues to be enforcing safe staffing levels, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) union officials said.

A pediatric oncology nurse at Mount Sinai who administers chemotherapy to children with cancer said it’s hard to let her patients go, but she knows it’s in the best interest of their care.

“We love these patients more than anything,” Melissa Perleoni said, “and it breaks our hearts — at least it breaks my heart — to be here, but I have to do this for the future of their care.”

Ribas said he hopes the hospital’s management will reach a contract with the nurses soon.

“Nurses are the heart of the NICU and they need to understand that before it becomes another situation – because every minute, every hour, babies are at a very, very high risk of even dying here.”

“There is nothing that can bring your child back. Nothing,” she said.

— CNN’s Tami Luhby, Vanessa Yurkevich and Mark Morales contributed to this report

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