A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a nurses association against a New York City hospital for allegedly failing to adequately protect the health and safety of front-line nurses treating patients with COVID-19.
In April, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) sued the Montefiore Medical Center, alleging that the hospital was exposing the nurses to the risk of death and serious physical harm by failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment, training, and safe working conditions for high-risk employees, including pregnant nurses.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman on May 1 granted Montefiore Medical Center’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, ruling that the court didn’t have the authority to resolve the dispute between the nurses and the hospital.
Furman noted that he is “deeply sympathetic to both sides” and hopes that they would continue efforts to “reach an amicable resolution of their disputes.”
“Nurses are among the heroes of this moment, putting their own lives at risk each and every day in an effort to save the lives of others; and the challenges facing hospitals—extraordinary demand and dwindling resources, with lives hanging in the balance—are undoubtedly staggering,” Furman noted in his ruling (pdf).
He said both sides share the ultimate goal to protect health care workers on the front lines as they battle “against a vicious disease without compromising patient care” but held that the parties were in a better position than the court or an arbitrator to find ways to achieve that goal within the constraints of limited resources and changing circumstances.
He added that nurses’ concerns are valid and that it was critical for the parties to address them as “swiftly as possible.”
“Lives may hang in the balance, and the NYSNA nurses deserve as much,” Furman wrote.
Since the ruling, the nurses association said in an emailed statement that Montefiore promised that it will properly fit nurses with N95 respirator masks, which they will obtain on a daily basis, provide sick pay to nurses who have been out of work due to a COVID-19 infection, expand COVID-19 testing to more nurses who are working with infected patients, and establish additional compensation benefits for every front-line health care worker to honor them for their work and personal sacrifices.
The association added that an arbitration between the parties over “an omnibus safety grievance” will continue to take place.
“Every safety improvement that Montefiore Medical Center has made was the result of nurses fighting for working conditions that protect the health and safety of nurses and patients,” the association said.
Along with suing Montefiore, the association has also filed separate lawsuits in state courts against another New York hospital, Westchester Medical Center, and the New York Department of Health.
In New York City, more than 164,000 people have tested positive for the virus, and 13,000 deaths have been attributed to the virus as of May 2.