Victory for Nurse health and safety: OSHA cites Montefiore New Rochelle for several safety violations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 9, 2021
Contact: Kristi Barnes | kristi.barnes@nysna.org | 646-853-4489

Hospital cited and fined for violating respirator safety protocols

Nurses applaud ruling, continue to advocate for safe working conditions and patient care conditions in New Rochelle

New Rochelle - The nurses at Montefiore New Rochelle recently heard that their facility was cited for violating workplace health and safety laws. In November 2020, NYSNA filed several federal health and safety complaints on behalf of its nurse members with the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

As nurses and other frontline caregivers battled COVID-19 last fall, unsafe working conditions had escalated, and many NYSNA members at the hospital spoke with OSHA, detailing their workplace exposure to COVID-19 and the ongoing unsafe conditions at the hospital.  

OSHA just came back with their ruling, issuing citations to Montefiore New Rochelle. The hospital must now comply with corrected policies and practices and pay a significant fine to OSHA. 

Citations issued by OSHA include: 

  • Lack of adequate respirator fit testing  
  • Nurses having to wear respirators that failed a fit test  
  • Not conducting medical evaluations for all staff who had to wear respirators  
  • Lack of information on the chemical products used for qualitative fit tests 

“At a time when nurses were dealing with the unprecedented and frightening challenge of protecting and saving our patients during the pandemic, we ourselves did not feel adequately protected from COVID-19,” explained local bargaining unit President Kathy Santioemma, RN. “Adequate and properly-fit PPE was our last line of defense against a deadly virus, and our employer fell short in protecting us. We’re excited to see OSHA enforce a better standard at New Rochelle for nurses and frontline healthcare workers.”

Obtaining OSHA citations for COVID-related hazards has not been easy. However, after a long investigation, numerous interviews with nurses and an extensive review of Montefiore New Rochelle’s paperwork, OSHA determined that Montefiore New Rochelle management had indeed violated several OSHA standards.

Nurses are determined to improve their working conditions and the patient care conditions in New Rochelle. NYSNA recently filed another OSHA complaint on behalf of nurses in New Rochelle that is awaiting determination.

One element of the latest complaint involves broken doors to the ICU, where COVID patients were being treated. Nurses consistently spoke up to demand the hospital repair or replace the doors, in order to control the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus. Instead, curtains were used instead of doors, presenting infection control, as well as health and safety hazards.

Danique Wiggins, RN, an ICU nurse who worked in this unit, said: “It took a whole year and us filing charges with OSHA for Montefiore New Rochelle to fix those doors. We told them it wasn’t safe, and we should not treat COVID patients in those rooms, but they still did. Unfortunately, they don’t think about nurse or patient safety until they’re pushed.”

Strong health and safety protocols continue to be a priority for nurses as the pandemic grinds on, increasingly infectious coronavirus variants emerge, and infection rates rise in some communities.

NYSNA nurses are still bargaining for a fair contract at the hospital, where they went on a two-day Unfair Labor Practice strike last December to have a voice in patient care.

###

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.

About NYSNA

We are 42,000 nurses working together to win safe staffing, keep hospitals open for care, stop the Wall Street attack on our patients, and win healthcare for all.