Nurse says she was fired after bringing own mask, gloves to Virtua Voorhees Hospital

Chad Pradelli Image
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Health care worker discusses her fight for protective equipment
Action News investigative reporter Chad Pradelli talked to a health care worker about her fight for protection.

VOORHEES, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The issue of personal protective equipment for health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight is a delicate one.

You have nurses trying to protect themselves, and hospitals trying to follow policy and preserve equipment for a possible surge.

A day after recovering from pneumonia, nurse Dawn Kulach says she went to work at Virtua Voorhees Hospital with her own N95 mask and a pair of gloves.

"They did not give us the OK to bring our own PPE from home, and they weren't providing it unless we were in certain COVID patient rooms," she told Action News.

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She says a supervisor quickly told her the equipment was against hospital policy.

"I told my manager, I said, 'You know, I don't feel adequately protected. And I'm not going to take off the mask,'" Kulach said.

She says she was told to go home. That was at the end of March.

She and her union representative then met with administrators.

"I was given until 9 a.m. to tell them what my choice was: resignation or termination," Kulach said.

Her union representative, Douglas Placa, said, "They basically said, 'No, you're going to do it our way.' And like I said, it just doesn't make sense that they would terminate her."

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Virtua Voorhees tells Action News it can't comment on personal matters, but released a statement that reads in part:

"Keeping our front line health care workers safe is always our top priority."

The hospital also says it follows CDC guidelines, provides gloves and masks, but only provides N95 masks for nurses treating COVID-19 positive patients or those awaiting test results.

The hospital also admits a week after it fired Kulach, the policy was changed to allow nurses to bring N95 masks to work, but must cover it with a Virtua-issued isolation mask and discard that daily.

"I do not believe that Virtua had any intention of changing their policy until one of the media stations aired my story," Kulach said.

The union is fighting to get Kulach's job back.