Nurses Sue Montefiore for ‘Systemic Failure’ to Protect Them

By Bob Van Voris | April 21, 2020

A union representing New York nurses sued Montefiore Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center for failing to safeguard its members and their families, as health care workers across the country demand personal protective equipment in the pandemic.

The New York State Nurses Association, which represents 42,000 nurses, is seeking an order requiring Montefiore and WMC to give the nurses sufficient PPE such as masks and gowns, provide improved ventilation and protection from the virus, and comply with negotiated staffing ratios, particularly for patients in intensive care units or on respirators. It said at least eight of its nurses have died from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, across the state.

The union said it represents 3,000 nurses at Montefiore and 1,600 at WMC.

The Montefiore case is the largest such suit filed by a nurses’ union in the U.S. “to our knowledge,” according to Susan Davis, one of the lawyers who filed the complaint Monday in federal court in Manhattan. It seeks to force the hospital to “immediately take steps required to protect the nurses’ health and safety” pending arbitration over their collective bargaining agreement.

The WMC suit was filed Monday in state court in White Plains, New York.

Montefiore said in a statement that the union’s 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.”

“Our focus is, and has always been, protecting our workforce, which has been aligned from the outset in treating the most severely ill patients battling Covid-19,” WMC said in a statement.

Doctors, nurses and other health care workers across the U.S., and especially in hot spots such as New York and Michigan, have tended to highly contagious Covid-19 patients sometimes without adequate protection from the virus, placing themselves and their families at risk. More than 9,000 health workers have been infected as of April 9, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and at least 27 have died, even as the nation’s health system has managed to avoid the worst predictions.

The union said 84 of its nurses have been hospitalized in New York, the state hit hardest by the outbreak. At least 150 Montefiore nurses have tested positive for the virus, it said.

“The methods by which the Covid-19 virus is transmitted and the troubling death rate of this virus has created significant and persistent danger” to nurses, according to the complaint against Montefiore.

The case is New York State Nurses Association v. Montefiore Medical Center, 20-cv-3122, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan); New York State Nurses Association v. Westchester County Health Care Corp., N.Y. State Supreme Court, Westchester Co. (White Plains).

About the photo: Tents outside the emergency room of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York on March 26.

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