A former nurse recently sued Northwestern Memorial Hospital over allegations of wrongful termination and retaliation.
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the country, many healthcare professionals are sounding the alarm that there are not enough protective masks and other supplies needed to properly combat the virus and treat their patients. Some hospitals have even resorted to using protective gear that isn’t entirely effective, like Northwestern Memorial Hospital. However, that hospital was recently hit with a whistleblower suit arguing a nurse was fired when she tried to warn coworkers that the “masks the hospital provided did not adequately protect staff against COVID-19.”
The former infectious disease nurse is Lauri Mazurkiewicz. She filed her suit in Cook County Circuit Court earlier this month and named the hospital and several of its staff as defendants. In it, she alleges the hospital began “accepting and treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19 this month, allegedly exposing Mazurkiewicz and others to the virus.” It further claims that instead of distributing N95 masks to hospital staff, “which are effective at preventing the wearer from contracting the virus, the hospital allegedly provided staff with less-effective masks.” To make matters worse, the hospital “prevented its employees from wearing N95 masks,” according to the lawsuit.
In response, Mazurkiewicz felt it was her duty to send emails to her fellow employees and supervisors back on March 18, warning them that “N95 masks were more effective than the masks distributed by the hospital.” She said:
“I sent the email to my co-workers so that they would be protected too so that they could take care of their patients better, protect their patients better, protect their families better, protect others better. It could have caused a movement, where nurses would demand N95s for the hospital.”
The next day, she was terminated when she showed up to work wearing an N95 mask. Because she also works as a travel nurse, she had her own supply of the more effective N95 masks.
The lawsuit, which is seeking more than 50,0000 in damages and a jury trial, claims Mazurkiewicz was fired in retaliation for warning her co-workers that the masks provided by the hospital were not effective against the virus.
When commenting on the matter, her attorney, Blake Horwitz, said, “You shouldn’t be fired for not only saying I’m gonna wear this but by educating people that’s this is the mask to wear.”
When asked about the incident, a spokesman for the hospital issued the following statement:
“As Northwestern Medicine continues to respond to this unprecedented health care pandemic, the health and well-being of our patients, our staff and our employees is our highest priority. We take these matters seriously and we are currently reviewing the complaint.”