Ex-Sinai Grace nurses file suit, allege hospital understaffing 'resulted in the death of patients'

Posted at 2:15 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 18:21:30-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Three nurses and a clinical coordinator at DMC Sinai Grace Hospital have filed a lawsuit against the Detroit Medical Center and the Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare alleging they were fired for speaking out about the conditions inside the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: Detroit hospital workers tell CNN patients are dying in the hallways from COVID-19

Jeffrey Eichenlaub, Sal Hadwan, Anthony Bonnett, who were all nurses, and Catherine Gaughan, who worked as a clinical coordinator, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Wayne County Circuit Court. Each is seeking $25 million.

According to the lawsuit, Sinai Grace Hospital failed "to protect the nursing and medical staff and failed to provide a safe, uncontaminated environment for both COVID and non-COVID patients."

Related: Disturbing images show bodies piled up at Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit

The lawsuit alleges that Tenet, which owns the DMC, and hospital officers, made decisions which hurt patient care and also left the hospital understaffed based on financial motivations.

Related: DMC Sinai Grace Hospital workers say they were told to leave after sit-in

"Defendants’ collective and intentional decision-making put Plaintiffs in a position where day in and day out they were effectively unable to discharge their lifesaving functions, which resulted in the death of patients that should have had positive outcomes," the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit said the workers were tasked with comforting dying patients, but couldn't even perform that function.

In April, photos from inside the hospital showed bodies piling up in rooms and other areas were released on CNN and other media outlets.

Disturbing images show bodies piled up at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit

It was those photos, they allege, that caused them all to be fired. All four plaintiffs say they didn't take the photos.

"1. Defendant DMC terminated Plaintiffs’ employment because of their honest, good-faith complaints about DMC’s preparedness for and handling of the Coronavirus epidemic and violations of both patient and employee safety rules under both Michigan, federal, and other regulatory rules applicable to Sinai-Grace Hospital Detroit," the lawsuit alleges.

They also say in the lawsuit that the reason for the termination based on alleged violations of the social media policy was a way to silence them and their complaints.

They allege the hospital "recklessly decided to maintain a severely understaffed hospital," and that nurses and other workers were "overwhelmed by dying patients – patients they could not possibly save all the lives of – and were forced to watch this travesty unfold without having a means to save lives."

DMC said they do not comment on pending litigation, but did give us the statement they released at the time the employees were fired. It reads:

“Our ethics hotline received complaints that employees had taken inappropriate photos of deceased patients at Sinai Grace Hospital and shared them with other employees.

We conducted a comprehensive investigation and took appropriate action based on employee admissions of violations of our patients' right to privacy.

We have an unwavering commitment and obligation to respect the privacy of our patients and to treat them with dignity and respect. We will not tolerate actions to the contrary.

We will continue to uphold our Standards of Conduct applicable to all employees and are grateful for the hundreds of team members at Sinai Grace Hospital whose courageous work and dedication to patients has been inspiring.”

Read the entire lawsuit below.
Ex-Sinai Grace nurses file suit, allege hospital understaffing 'resulted in the death of patients' by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd

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