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Hospital failed to protect nurse from NY’s coronavirus ‘patient zero’: suit

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A nurse who treated the state’s coronavirus “patient zero” says in a new lawsuit that she and her family ended up battling the contagion — and debilitating fallout — because of gross negligence at her hospital.

The healthcare worker and others at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville “were offered up as sacrificial lambs to be slaughtered by the COVID-19 virus,’’ her lawyers told The Post.

The nurse, who is anonymous in the Manhattan Supreme Court suit filed Saturday, helped care for onetime ailing lawyer Lawrence Garbuz at the Westchester County hospital after he was admitted Feb. 27, the court papers say.

Garbuz, 50 — who Gov. Cuomo dubbed the state’s coronavirus “patient zero’’ — was admitted “with an initial intake diagnosis of pneumonia and exhibiting apparent signs of COVID-19 infection’’ — yet it would take him up to five days to be tested, the suit says.

A different nurse who tended to Garbuz in the intensive-care unit told a doctor Feb. 29, “I think this patient is COVID’’ — but her concerns were ignored as “alarmist” and “paranoid,” the court papers allege.

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A day later, the plaintiff nurse also “voiced grave concerns” to her supervisor that Garbuz was “exhibiting obvious signs of COVID-19,” the papers say. Yet she and other staff were provided surgical masks instead of the N-95 masks and face shields that the hospital was already requiring for its workers who were coming into contact with coronavirus patients, the document says.

Garbuz of New Rochelle tested positive for the deadly contagion by March 2, the suit says.

But the plaintiff nurse — who lives in Hartsdale and still works at the facility — already

had contracted the virus and gave it to her husband and son, the court papers say. The nurse and her husband are in their early 50s, while the boy is a teen, her lawyers said.



The nurse and her family “sustained serious, irreversible injuries as a result of her exposure to COVID-19,” including “decrease or loss of lung function,” mental anguish and other physical and mental injuries, the court documents claim.

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The hospital failed to follow CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines “for the treatment of suspected COVID-19 positive patients,” the papers allege.

New York Presbyterian “completely disregarded the signs that Westchester Patient Zero was COVID-19 positive, as well as those warnings provided by hospital staff, including the concerns voiced by a critical care nurse on February 29, 2020 and by plaintiff NURSE ANONYMOUS on March 1, 2020,” the filings charge.

The “intentional and/or wonton disregard for the safety of NURSE ANONYMOUS, and others, was so extreme and outrageous in character as to go beyond all bounds of decency,” the suit adds.

The nurse’s lawyers, Michael Barrows and Jason Goldfarb, told The Post, “Knowingly allowing these dedicated health workers to treat a suspected COVID-19 positive patient without proper PPE equipment shocks the conscience.”

Garbuz was the first known coronavirus case in New Rochelle, the state’s initial epicenter of the pandemic. He was released from the hospital in late March and has said he had no idea he had the contagion when he started suffering symptoms in late February.

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NewYork-Presbyterian declined comment to The Post.

Additional reporting by Kate Sheehy

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