Coronavirus: Nurse suspended for buying protective gear for co-workers with money from GoFundMe campaign

Olga Matievskaya disciplined for "distributing unauthorised medical supplies", hospital says


Louise Hall
Wednesday 08 April 2020 16:22 BST
New York nurses beg for protective equipment to treat coronavirus

A nurse who raised money to provide her colleagues with protective equipment in the fight against coronavirus has been temporarily suspended for distributing “unauthorised” protective gear, according to a report.

Olga Matievskaya raised more than $12,000 on a GoFundMe page to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for her colleagues at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey.

The intensive care nurse used some of the donations to buy about 500 masks, 4,000 shoe covers and 150 jumpsuits to help protect colleagues and patients from the novel coronavirus, according to a report by ProPublica.

In retaliation, hospital administrators placed Ms Matievskaya on temporary suspension for distributing “unauthorised” protective gear on Saturday, the report said.

“No employee is allowed to distribute unauthorised medical supplies within the hospital,” the hospital told ProPublica in a statement.

“The nurse in question was temporarily suspended for inappropriately distributing unauthorized medical supplies, against this policy.”

On the GoFundMe page nurses wrote: “PPE are desperately and urgently needed for health care frontliners staff in ICU/CCU.”

“Money will be used to order overalls, shoe covers, masks, filters for respirators, sanitisers and wipes.”

Hospitals in the worst hit areas of the US are facing increasing pressure from medical staff to provide adequate supplies of PPE to allow workers to safely carry out their duties amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result of nationwide shortages, many workers say that supplies are being stretched and they are being expected to re-use or go without protective equipment while treating patients.

Last month, colleagues of a nursing manager who died of coronavirus alleged to The New York Post that their co-workers death may have been linked to PPE shortages.

Kious Kelly, 48, died at Mount Sinai’s flagship hospital on 24 March, workers told the newspaper.

A photo showing nurses wearing trash bags as protective gear at the same hospital where Kelly worked later circulated online.

A spokesperson for Mt Sinai denied the claims about equipment shortages at the time to The Post.

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center told ProPublica that it ensures clinicians have adequate supplies of PPE in line with regulations.

“We are working 24-hours a day, 7-days a week to ensure that the appropriate PPE gets to the right staff, at the right time,” the hospital said in a statement to the outlet.

“No one person, institution, or hospital can independently correct this global supply shortage.”

Four nurses who spoke to ProPublica on the basis of anonymity claimed the administration has failed to provide them with enough protective supplies.

One of the nurses alleged that “there was no information distributed” about not being allowed to purchase supplies.

ProPublica noted that Ms Matievskaya did not criticise her administrators and had not declined to comment since her suspension.

“We understand this is what we signed up for,” one ICU nurse told ProPublica. “Just provide us with sufficient (protective equipment) so we can give these patients the optimal care that they need, and so we aren’t contaminating others or ourselves.”

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