New York Nurses Union Files Lawsuit Against the State and Hospitals, Amid Safety Concerns

The New York State Nurses Association has filed three lawsuits, alleging that the state Department of Health and two hospitals failed to protect health care workers during the Coronavirus Pandemic. The union said the New York Department of Health, Montefiore Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center compromised the health and safety of nurses by providing inadequate equipment, training and working conditions to the nurses treating COVID-19 patients.

NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane noted that over 70% of these nurses have reported exposure to the Coronavirus, with the majority still untested. NYSNA is alleging grossly inadequate and negligent protections in these lawsuits. Further allegations include not providing testing for nurses, forcing untested nurses with COVID-19 symptoms to work, and for the lucky few that are tested, requiring them to work until their results arrive. The Department of Health allegedly has not enforced Governor Cuomo’s declaration, which requires that health care workers receive an N95 respiratory mask on a daily basis. Furthermore, it is noted that the Department of Health does not allow paid sick days for workers who test positive for the coronavirus. One Montefiore Medical Center nurse testified in an affidavit that she began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and promptly reported them to the hospital. She asked for testing but was informed the hospital would not test her. She later tested positive for the coronavirus after obtaining a test on her own. A nurse at Westchester Medical Center testified in another affidavit that she was given just one N95 respiratory mask from the hospital, which she re-used for the entire week. Further, the mask was too large, and she allegedly was exposed infectious airborne molecules.

Learn more about OSHA regulations during the COVID-19 Pandemic here.

The state suit against the Department of Health seeks a declaratory judgment that the agency's return-to-work protocols are not in accordance with the state's paid family leave policies. Furthermore, it also seeks ensure adequate personal protection equipment and testing for nurses. The federal suit against Montefiore seeks an injunction to compel the hospital to take steps to protect the roughly 3,000 nurses NYSNA represents at the center, while the state suit against Westchester Medical Center seeks to redress conditions the union claims threaten imminent death or serious physical harm to the 1,600 nurses it represents there.

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