Coronavirus: New York governor Cuomo criticised for insisting nursing staff have enough equipment

Backlash comes after photo of nurses at Mount Sinai West wearing trash bags as gowns surfaces online

Louise Hall
New York
Friday 27 March 2020 08:35 GMT
New York governor says hospitalisation rate in state is slowing

A New York nurses’ union has hit out at governor Andrew Cuomo for insisting nursing staff have enough protective equipment, suggesting his claims are “dangerous” and “misleading.”

During a daily news briefing on Wednesday, Mr Cuomo assured people that hospitals now have plenty of personal protective gear (PPE) for staff members.

“The equipment we are bringing today will resolve that immediate need. There will be no hospital in the city of New York who will say today their nurses and doctors can’t get equipment,” he said.

However, Pat Kane, a registered nurse and the executive director of the New York State Nurses Association has hit out at the governor saying “a statement like that can be dangerous.”

“If you’re saying there’s enough, but that ‘enough’ involves following guidelines where there are a lot of risks involved, it’s misleading,” Ms Kane said, according to The New York Daily News.

The union backlash comes after a photo showing Mount Sinai Health System nurses wearing bin bags as protective clothing surfaced online and in a report by The New York Post.

A caption to one image on social media read: “NO MORE GOWNS IN THE WHOLE HOSPITAL”, and “NURSES FIGURING IT OUT DURING Covid-19 CRISIS.”

A nursing manager who cared for coronavirus patients at the same hospital died of the virus.

Kious Kelly was admitted to Mount Sinai’s flagship hospital and died on Tuesday, according to the report.

Medical staff alleged that Mr Kelly’s death was connected to the shortage of PPE and basic supplies, the newspaper reported.

A spokesperson for Mt Sinai vehemently denied the claims about equipment shortages.

In a statement to The Hill, a spokesperson said: “If an individual does not have their proper PPE, they do not go on the floor, period. Any suggestion otherwise is simply not accurate.”

They acknowledged that the pandemic is “straining the resources of all New York area hospitals”.

Ms Kane claimed that many nurses are having to reuse their protective gear claiming that some are being ordered to stretch the use of face masks to five days, much longer than their recommended use.

“Nurses are trying to dry them out, wipe them out,” she said. “They’re doing this without training.”

Gov Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told The New York Daily News: “Nurses are heroically on the front lines of fighting this ‎pandemic and we’re working around the clock to make sure they have the tools they need to do so.”

Ms Kane emphasised to the outlet her desire for the government to take the perspectives of working nurses into account.

“I’m not pointing the finger to blame anyone at this point. But we’re not at the table. They’re not asking us for this information,” she said.

There are more than 15,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City alone and the some 33,000 cases of Covid-19 in the state account for nearly half of all confirmed cases in the US.

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