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NYC hospital responds to photos of nurses wearing trash bags as gowns

Spokespeople for Mount Sinai said that the safety of staff and patients is their top priority.
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Media representatives from Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, New York have responded to viral images that show nurses wearing black trash bags. Eric Thayer / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

As coronavirus cases in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., continue to rise, medical workers have said that they don't have enough personal protective equipment, like masks and gowns, to do their jobs safely.

At Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, where a staff member died of COVID-19 earlier this week, several nurses were photographed wearing trash bags over protective gear like masks, gloves and face shields. The images have been shared across social media, though some posts have been deleted or removed since they were first posted.

"NO MORE GOWNS IN THE WHOLE HOSPITAL," read the caption on one post, which showed a screenshot of the nurses and also alleged the hospital was reusing disposable masks. "NURSES FIGURING IT OUT DURING COVID-19 CRISIS..."

TODAY has not been able to speak to the nurses in the photos.

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Lucia Lee, the senior director of media for the Mount Sinai Health System, provided a statement to TODAY stating the "safety and protection" of Mount Sinai staff and patients "is always and will always be our absolute top priority," especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

"When it comes to staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), the facts are very clear: We always provide all our staff with the critically important PPE they need to safely do their job," Lee wrote. "If an individual does not have their proper PPE, they do not go on the floor, period. Any suggestion otherwise is simply not accurate."

Renatt Brodsky, the director of media and public relations for Mount Sinai, told NBC News that "facts are very different than recent media reports" when it comes to medical staff wearing protective gear, and emphasized that as of now there is enough protective gear available.

"The troubling photo circulating in the media specifically shows the nurses in proper PPE underneath (the) garbage bags," Brodsky said.

Photos show nurses wearing appropriate protective gear beneath black trash bags.
Photos show nurses wearing appropriate protective gear beneath black trash bags. Joanne Loo

However, there is still danger of the hospitals running out of supplies. Across the country, medical professionals have said that they do not have enough access to personal protective equipment, and access to more may be difficult to ensure.

"The crisis is straining the resources of all New York-area hospitals and while we do, and have had, enough protective equipment for our staff, we will all need more in the weeks ahead," Lee said. "This crisis is only growing and it's essential that we not only have all the right equipment, but that we come together to help and support one another."