By Kevin Deutsch and Eric Klein
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The New York State Nurses Association filed a lawsuit against Montefiore Medical Center Monday, alleging the Bronx hospital is failing to properly protect staffers from COVID-19, court records show.
The federal lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, claims the medical center is providing front-line workers with inadequate equipment and safety gear, making them carry out treatments they are not trained to conduct, and forcing nurses infected with COVID-19 to return to work while still sick.
The civil action seeks a temporary restraining order and injunction that would force Montefiore to provide enough personal protective equipment – including clean N95 masks, gowns, and face shields – to adequately protect front-line staffers, according to the court papers.
Pamela Brown-Richardson, a registered nurse at Montefiore, said in an affidavit filed with the suit that she began experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, including cough and fever, and “reported my symptoms to Montefiore and asked for testing.”
“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,” Brown-Richardson wrote.
The nurse’s union alleges roughly 72% of its roughly 42,000 members have been exposed to COVID-19 at New York hospitals, leading to eight deaths in their ranks.
Lawyers for the union said its 3,000 registered nurses at Montefiore are routinely forced to reuse soiled safety masks for days at a time, worsening conditions inside the hospital.
“Right now, the hospital is like a war zone,” the suit states.
Montefiore officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the suit.
The facility, part of a sprawling network of 11 hospitals, treats some of the most impoverished patients in New York City. Its executive compensation packages also rank among the richest in the state, tax records show.
Recently filings show Dr. Philip Ozuah, the CEO of Montefiore Medicine, collected $13 million in early retirement money, bonus pay, and salary in 2018 alone.