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Nurses union sues New York state and and hospitals over lack of protection and 'war zone' conditions

John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 22, 2020

Such frustrations and lack of protection have incurred criticism from a number of nurses unions, with members of National Nurses United (NNU) gathering outside the White House Tuesday to protest the lack of PPE that it says has left tens of thousands of health care workers nationwide infected with COVID-19. Many have also criticized pressure from hospital systems for exposed workers to continue their jobs.

The pandemic has especially hit New York hard, with the state home to more than 248,431 of the nation’s 766,212 cases, reports CNBC. The New York Department of Health said in a statement that it is “deeply grateful” for the services of its healthcare workers and “continues to take every step necessary to ensure that healthcare workers ... have the support and supplies needed to address this unprecedented public health emergency.”

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Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for front-line workers to be given hazard pay in the form of 50% bonuses for their efforts, and has pledged to hold a ticker tape parade for them once the pandemic has subsided, reports Complex.

Montefiore, in a statement, criticized NYSNA for its allegations, saying the organization’s leadership “has chosen to attack a system, and the commitment of thousands of their colleagues, who have followed the governor’s emergency orders and are selflessly doing all they can to fight COVID-19 and save lives.”

Westchester Medical Center also released a statement. “We know, and our care providers know, that the allegations in NYSNA’s lawsuit are wrong. NYSNA’s lawsuit is irresponsible and a distraction from this work, and a disservice to all who are valiantly caring for these patients every day.”

The suit is among the first collective legal actions taken by health workers over the handling of the coronavirus outbreak by hospital administrators and state government.

The suit against Montefiore was filed in Manhattan federal court on behalf of the 3,000 registered NYSNA nurses employed by the system. The one against Westchester Medical Center was filed in Westchester County Supreme Court on behalf of the 1,600 NYSNA members employed by the system.

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