Nurse's lawsuit alleges Northwestern Memorial Hospital fired her for warning about 'ineffective' COVID-19 masks

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A former infectious disease nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging she was fired after warning coworkers that masks the hospital provided did not adequately protect staff against COVID-19.

Lauri Mazurkiewicz filed the suit Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, naming the hospital and several employees as defendants, the lawsuit states.

According to the suit, the hospital began accepting and treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19 this month, allegedly exposing Mazurkiewicz and others to the virus.

Instead of distributing N95 masks, which are effective at preventing the wearer from contracting the virus, the hospital allegedly provided staff with "less-effective" masks last week, the lawsuit claims.

The hospital allegedly also prevented its employees from wearing N95 masks.

Mazurkiewicz sent an email March 18 warning employees and supervisors that N95 masks were more effective than the masks distributed by the hospital, the suit states.

"I sent the email to my co-workers so that they would be protected too, so that they could take care of their patients better, protect their patients better, protect their families better, protect others better," Mazurkiewicz said. "It could have caused a movement, where nurses would demand N95s for the hospital."

She claims she was fired the next day after showing up to work while wearing an N95 mask. Mazurkiewicz said she is also a travel nurse and has her own.

The lawsuit claims she was laid off in retaliation for warning staff that the masks the hospital provided were unsafe.

"You shouldn't be fired for not only saying I'm gonna wear this but by educating people that's this is the mask to wear," said Blake Horwitz, Mazurkiewicz's attorney.

A spokesman for Northwestern Memorial said in statement that, "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 said several days ago, she started not feeling well and had some symptoms of COVID-19, but tested negative for the virus.

The suit seeks a jury trial and more than $50,000 in damages.

Sun-Times Media contributed to this report
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