NY Nurses Union Sues Health Department, Hospitals Over CCP Virus Working Conditions

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
April 21, 2020Updated: April 21, 2020

A union representing thousands of nurses in New York State has filed lawsuits against the state and two hospitals, claiming they failed to adequately protect the health and safety of frontline nurses treating patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus.

The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) filed on Monday two separate state lawsuits against the New York Department of Health and Westchester Medical Center, and a federal lawsuit against the Montefiore Medical Center. The association alleged in the lawsuits that they were 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-risks employees, including pregnant nurses.

“More than seven in ten of our nurses are reporting exposure to COVID-19 and most are still untested. These lawsuits were filed to protect our nurses, our patients and our communities from grossly inadequate and negligent protections,” NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane said in a statement. “We cannot allow these dangerous practices to continue.”

Some of the specific allegations detailed in the complaints against the hospitals include rationing of personal protective equipment such as N95 masks and gowns, failing to provide impermeable gowns, failing to properly train nurses that have already been deployed, and failing to properly ventilate rooms of COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, in a separate lawsuit, the union accused the New York State Department of Health (DOH) of failing to carry out its responsibility to safeguard the public’s health and safety. The suit seeks to enforce a declaration from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force that healthcare workers receive an N95 respirator mask on a daily basis.

That suit also alleged that a health department directive to healthcare providers does not provide enough sick leave to nurses and other healthcare workers who have tested positive for the virus, despite newly-enacted legislation that provides 14 paid sick days to workers who have tested positive.

“DOH’s neglect of its statutory duties and disregard for the laws of this state have exacerbated rather than mitigated the ongoing crisis,” the association wrote in its filing. “This has caused serious illness and death for nurses and other frontline health care workers and created a state-wide public nuisance contributing to, rather than combatting, the spread of COVID-19 throughout New York State and beyond.”

The DOH said in a statement that they cannot comment on pending litigation.

“The State of New York continues to take every step necessary to ensure that health care workers, particularly those who are sampling and providing direct care, have the support and supplies needed to address this unprecedented public health emergency,” a spokesperson told media outlets in a statement.

The two hospitals did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.

New York State is at the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus. The pandemic has resulted in lockdowns that have devastated the state’s economy. In New York alone, more than 247,000 people have tested positive for the virus, and over 14,000 deaths have been attributed to the virus as of Tuesday.