Nurse says Northwestern Memorial fired her over wanting better face masks
Lauri Mazurkiewicz, who sued the hospital Monday, wore an N95 face mask instead of a standard surgical mask issued by the hospital.
A nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital who wore a more protective face mask than the one issued to her by the hospital — and warned coworkers to do the same — said Tuesday she suspects she was fired because such a warning could spur protests or even walkouts by nurses who didn’t have the same level of protection.
Lauri Mazurkiewicz — who filed suit against the hospital Monday — wore an N95 face mask she bought herself to work this month at the hospital. On March 18 she emailed about 50 coworkers suggesting they, too, wear the extra-protective mask in place of the standard hospital-issued surgical masks her and her colleagues had been instructed to wear.
The very next day, Mazurkiewicz learned she’d been fired when she received a call from the nursing staffing agency that placed her at the hospital.
“I had a box of my own,” she said of the N95 masks, noting her concern about airborne transmission of the virus and the additional protection the masks offer.
“Most nurses get (N95 masks) from the hospital, but they weren’t around. I don’t know why they weren’t around, maybe they didn’t have them, maybe they were low ... but I can speculate they didn’t have enough for all the workers to go around,” she said Tuesday during a Skype call with reporters.
“It could have caused a movement where nurses would demand N95s from the hospital and then potentially they could have walked out or protested, and then they wouldn’t have any nurses,” Mazurkiewicz said.
The hospital also prohibited employees from wearing N95 masks, instead instructing them to wear standard surgical masks, said Mazurkiewicz, who worked in an observation section of the hospital near the emergency room where patients, after a couple days, are either admitted or sent home.
“They told her at the hospital not to wear it, and she said ‘That’s not OK. I’m not going to follow your instruction,’” her attorney, Blake Horwitz, said Tuesday.
Mazurkiewicz said she was not allowed to wear the N95 mask under the one issued by the hospital.
In an emailed statement, hospital spokesman Christopher King said, “As Northwestern Medicine continues to respond to this unprecedented health care pandemic, the health and well-being of our patients, our staff and our employees is our highest priority. We take these matters seriously and we are currently reviewing the complaint. At this time, we will not be commenting further.”
Mazurkiewicz’s lawsuit was filed in Cook County Circuity Court and names the hospital and several employees as defendants. The suit seeks a jury trial and more than $50,000 in damages.