New OSHA Complaint Details Violations of Workplace Protections and COVID Risks at Hospital
New Rochelle, NY - With COVID-19 cases rising steadily in the New Rochelle area, it’s clear to nurses at Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital that the hospital is not yet prepared for another surge of patients. Yesterday, the New York State Nurses Association filed an OSHA complaint detailing several health and safety violations.
“I live about five minutes away from the hospital, so the quality of care we provide here at New Rochelle matters to me— professionally and personally,” explained Agatha Flores, RN, an emergency room nurse. “After almost nine months of learning about COVID-19, Montefiore New Rochelle should be much more prepared to protect everyone’s health and safety. But we’re not ready.”
The OSHA complaints detail reporting failures by the hospital, as well as lack of fit testing for respirators, lack of face protection when working with COVID patients, and failing to follow global standards of infection control by mixing COVID patients into the general population, which exposes nurses and patients to unnecessary risk of virus transmission.
Conditions in New Rochelle Hospital’s Emergency Department are especially concerning. Currently, the New Rochelle Emergency Department is only equipped with 15 beds, which leaves potential COVID patients in the waiting room, increasing risk of exposure. The hospital is failing to apply and enforce basic, globally accepted and CDC proposed, measures, such as social distancing and limiting visitation during the pandemic. The hospital only has one isolation room, where COVID patients can be safely intubated. Patients are not being tested for COVID before moving to other units in the hospital.
“In the emergency department where I work, we are not fit tested for our N95s and the straps are constantly breaking,” explained Peggy Sinkkonen, RN. “Frontline workers and the community are also risking greater exposure because we don’t have the space or staff to move patients efficiently out of the ED and into isolation rooms, where someone with an airborne virus should be.”
Emergency nurse, Shalon Matthews, RN, said, “We want to deliver safe patient care and uphold the oath we took in nursing school to do no harm. We have an amazing team of nurses, but I still have to pray every day for the staff and resources to take care of these patients when we walk through those doors.”
Earlier this week, NYSNA filed an OSHA complaint against the hospital for failure to provide NYSNA with health and safety logs, as required by law. Montefiore Health System was cited at its Wakefield site earlier this year by OSHA for failure to report a work-related death and failure to provide proper respiratory protection, as required by law.
This latest OSHA complaint was filed after hours of interviews with nurses and review of official documentation of COVID health and safety conditions compiled in a NYSNA Patient Care Chronicle. The Chronicle documents repetitive and consistent nurse understaffing throughout the hospital, as well as inadequate COVID-19 safety protocols. Those conditions were exacerbated by the first COVID surge, when two frontline caregivers died from COVID-19.
The NYSNA nurses intend to walk out at 7 AM on Tuesday, December 1 for a two-day strike to stop Montefiore’s intimidation and silencing of their voices about patient care.
“The nurses are united and ready to do whatever it takes for safe patient care,” concluded NYSNA leader at New Rochelle, Kathy Santioemma, RN. “We'll be outside the hospital letting our patients know just that — beginning December 1.”
The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit nysna.org.