The New York State Nurses Association, on behalf of thousands of nurses, is suing the state Department of Health and two area hospitals for allegedly failing to provide adequate protection for nursing staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
In three separate lawsuits against Westchester Medical Center, Montefiore Medical Center, and the New York State Department of Health, the state nursing association alleged that a lack of protective gear is putting the nurses and the general public at risk.
The suit against the State Department of Health, filed in New York Supreme Court on Monday, seeks to enforce Gov. Andrew Cuomo's April 13 directive that each direct care nurse be issued one N95 mask daily.
Also alleged in the suit against the Department of Health was that nurses were forced to work when sick, putting the larger public at risk.
NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane voiced concerns that nurses have largely been untested for the virus.
“More than seven in 10 of our nurses are reporting exposure to COVID-19 and most are still untested," Kane said. "These lawsuits were filed to protect our nurses, our patients and our communities from grossly inadequate and negligent protections. We cannot allow these dangerous practices to continue.”
The suit against Westchester Medical Center, filed in Westchester County Supreme Court on behalf of 1,600 employees there, alleges that nurses were intimated for speaking out about a lack of protective gear and makes claims of a lack of protective gear for nurses.
Liesl Van Ledjte, an RN at Westchester Medical Center, said in a statement that not only was she given one mask, but there were problems with it fitting as well.
“Initially, Westchester Medical Center gave me only one N95 respirator, which I was required to use for a week's time… Because it was too big…I was exposed to infectious airborne molecules that could reach my nose and mouth,” Van Ledjte said in her court statement.
The suit against Montefiore Medical Center, filed in the Southern District of New York, seeks to restore safe working conditions for 3,000 of its nurses.
Pamela Brown-Richardson, a nurse at Montefiore Medical Center, claims she had to pay for her own coronavirus test.
"I began experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, including cough and fever. I reported my symptoms to Montefiore and asked for testing," Brown-Richardson said in a court statement. "I was informed that Montefiore would not test me….I obtained testing on my own... [and] found out that I tested positive for COVID-19.”