New York’s nurses are not receiving the equipment they need to continue combating coronavirus safely, lawsuit contends.
The New York State Nurses Association, which represents 42,000 nurses, filed a lawsuit against the New York state Department of Health (DOH), Montifiore Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center in an effort to obtain necessary safety gear and to adopt measures that will help limit the spread of COVID-19. The state has been one of the hardest hit areas to date, and nurses are asking judges to issue injunctions, forcing defendants to provide masks and other protection to those on the frontlines.
“These lawsuits were filed to protect our nurses, our patients and our communities from grossly inadequate and negligent protections,” said a statement from Pat Kane, the association’s executive director. The plaintiffs allege “despite requirements by the state’s COVID-19 task force that healthcare workers receive an N95 respirator daily, hospitals are ignoring the directive and the health department is not enforcing it.” They are not receiving the mandatory gear needed to continue treating patients safely.
“By compromising the health and safety of the nurses, the DOH and the two hospitals jeopardize patients, their families and the communities in which they live,” the Nurses Association said in a statement submitted with the filing. All three filings indicate the systems are “not providing impermeable gowns and other PPE to cover RNs bodies; not properly training RNs redeployed from hospital units; inadequate provision of safe working conditions for high-risk employees, including pregnant RNs. Overall, the nurses have not received appropriate masks and carry out assignments in unsafe working conditions.”
“The State of New York continues to take every step necessary to ensure that health care workers, particularly those who are sampling and providing direct care, have the support and supplies needed to address this unprecedented public health emergency,” the Department of Health responded.
DOH spokesman Jonah Bruno added, “We are deeply grateful for the ongoing efforts of New York’s health-care workers to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by testing people who may be infected and treating those who are most in need.”
“NYSNA leadership has chosen to attack a system, and the commitment of thousands of their colleagues, who have followed the Governor’s emergency orders and are selflessly doing all they can to fight COVID-19 and save lives,” Montefiore spokesperson Tracy Gurrisi said.
The association, however, said 11% of registered nurses in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus and the workers are treating nearly 250,000 cases to date. Some nurses say the hospitals at which they work would not test them, forcing them to continue caring for patients even when they showed obvious signs of having contracted the virus. Other say the gear provided was not adequate.
“I began experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, including cough and fever. I reported my symptoms to Montefiore and asked for testing. I was informed that Montefiore would not test me,” said nurse Pamela Brown-Richardson. She was forced to obtain her own test and it came back positive.
Liesel Van Ledjte, who works at Westchester Medical Center, said the hospital gave her only one N95 mask, which was too large, and thus, not useful. “Because it was too big. I was exposed to infectious airborne molecules that could reach my nose and mouth,” she said.