- A federal judge in New York tossed out a lawsuit Friday that was brought by the New York State Nurses Association over allegations the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx isn't doing enough to protect nurses from contracting COVID-19.
- The NYSNA's lawsuit and emergency injunction sought to compel the court to force Montefiore to increase the availability of PPE and other supplies. However, Judge Jesse Furman, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said the dispute should be resolved in arbitration per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and that it wouldn't be appropriate for the court to grant the injunction pending the arbitration.
- Still, despite the loss in federal court, the nurses association said that Montefiore had agreed to a number of provisions, including providing nurses with properly fitting N95 masks daily and sick pay to nurses out with COVID-19.
In a statement to Healthcare Dive, Montefiore said the "ruling recognizes the unions' disgraceful and counterproductive behavior for what it is — a distraction from our efforts to save lives throughout the crisis." The dismissal will allow the hospital "to return our focus 100% to caring for our patients," it said.
Although the judge dismissed the nurses lawsuit, he seemed sympathetic to their plight. However, he cautioned that the arbitration process needed play out without the court's interference.
" ... the Court cannot say that the likelihood of infection (let alone death) in the absence of an injunction is so great as to render the arbitral process meaningless. That is not to say that Montefiore cannot or should not do more to protect its nurses than it is; it is merely to say that, under the parties' collective bargaining agreement, that is an issue for the arbitrator, not this Court, to decide," Furman said in his Friday order.
NYSNA said arbitration over its safety grievance will 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 union, which represents more than 42,000 nurses in New York, said in a statement.
Two other lawsuits the NYSNA brought against Westchester Medical Center and the New York State Department of Health are still pending in state courts, the group said.
New York has been hard hit by the novel coronavirus, bearing the brunt of outbreak in the United States with more than 316,000 confirmed cases, or 27% of the caseload in the U.S., according to Monday's figures from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Medical workers including nurses are on the front lines of the pandemic, deemed essential workers and continuing to treat those infected with the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on April 14 that about 9,300 healthcare workers contracted the disease. A majority of those were female (73%) and the median age was 42. Though, the CDC cautioned this was likely an underestimation of the total cases among healthcare workers.