Nurses Sue Montefiore for ‘Systemic Failure’ to Protect Them (1)

April 20, 2020, 4:54 PM

A union representing 3,000 nurses at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center sued the hospital for a “widespread and systemic failure” to safeguard its members, 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 to give the nurses sufficient PPE such as masks and gowns, provide negative-pressure rooms or high-efficiency air filters, 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.

Tents outside the emergency room of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York on March 26.
Photographer: Angus Mordant/Bloomberg

It’s the biggest 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.

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.”

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.

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).

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(Updates with details of suit)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Bob Van Voris in federal court in Manhattan at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net

Peter Jeffrey

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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