A federal judge in the Southern District of New York dismissed the New York State Nurses Association’s request for an injunction that would’ve forced Montefiore Medical Center to provide more personal protective equipment, court documents show.
The union alleged shortcomings like inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), a lack of training for registered nurses redeployed from hospital units to meet the staffing needed to treat the high number of Covid-19 patients, and unsafe working conditions for high-risk employees.
The union filed similar suits against Westchester Medical Center and the New York State Department of Health.
Writing Friday, Judge Jesse Furman wrote that the court did not have the authority to enforce an injunction against Montefiore, and that under the union’s collective bargaining agreement, the dispute could only be resolved through arbitration.
“It would ‘unduly interfere’ with the hospital’s ability to make business decisions’ at a time when the judicial interference could be particularly problematic,” Furman wrote, citing legal precedent. “The tragic fact that, between now and the conclusion of the arbitration proceedings, nurses at Montefiore may well (indeed, are likely to) contract Covid-19 does not alter that conclusion.”
Furman wrote “…given the measures that Montefiore has been taking, under extraordinary circumstances, to protect its staff and provide patient care,” adding “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,” Furman wrote, “it is merely to say that, under the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, that is an issue for the arbitrator, not this Court, to decide.”