Former Nurse’s Assistant Claims BronxCare Fired Her To Avoid Reporting Patient Injury to Department of Health

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A white senior manager at BronxCare hospital was so determined to get rid of a Black certified nurses assistant (CNA) on staff that she allegedly falsely blamed her for an injury to a patient, forced her to resign, then covered up the patient-incident by not reporting the matter to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), as required by state and federal law.

The CNA, Lenora Bromfield, claims in a lawsuit that Mariea Collora, who was Director of Human Resources, harbored racist animus toward her. Bromfield was suspended on four previous occasions by Collora. Each time, after an investigation, Bromfield, a Jamaican immigrant was exonerated and restored to her position, with back pay, she says.

Bromfield sued BronxCare in December 2016, alleging race and age discrimination—she was 58 at the time--and the case has dragged on for six years. She believes the hospital is trying to wear her down to force her into accepting “a crazy” settlement. Indeed, one of the lawyers representing BronxCare offered her $3,000 in a settlement conference to go away, even though she’d worked at the hospital for nearly 24 years, she says.

Bromfield has been representing herself; her numerous requests for pro bono counsel to a magistrate judge, Henry B. Pitman, to whom the case was assigned, were rejected through the years, except for when she was assigned a law student for the settlement conference. “I’m quite sure they wouldn’t offer $3,000 to a white CNA if she’d been wrongfully fired after 24 years of dedicated employment,” Bromfield said.

After rejecting one of Bromfield’s filings for pro bono counsel, on Sept. 25, 2018, Magistrate Judge Pitman wrote, “Any renewal motion should explain why the case has sufficient merit to warrant the appointment of counsel.” Bromfield, in an interview  said: “Well the merit is clear. BronxCare has three lawyers representing them.” She was referring to Marc Andrew Sittenreich, Samantha Nicole Tomey, and, Marianne Monroy, the three lawyers who’ve represented BronxCare.

The three are with a high-powered law firm, Garfunkel Wild, P.C., out of Great Neck, New York. After Bromfield rejected the $3,000, she says Tomey told her BronxCare was willing to increase the offer to $10,000 provided the case was sealed. “They still have not reported the injury to the patient six years after the incident. They think they can jeopardize patient safety and buy my silence for $10,000,” Bromfield said.

The current magistrate assigned to the case, Sarah L. Cave, has also denied Bromfield’s motions for counsel to represent her, she said.

Bromfield said Collora threatened to fire her if she didn't resign, on April 19, 2016. Collora claimed a patient suffered a broken-toe injury on either March 17, or 18, during her shift, she said. During discovery in her pending federal case Bromfield obtained a copy of a report prepared by Ian Andrews, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at BronxCare, stating that the patient broken-toe injury occurred on March 20, 2016 at around 11.30 AM, at a time when Bromfield wasn’t on duty. That shift belonged to a certified nursing assistant named Melissa Santos, who is white, Bromfield said. "So many people knew what really happened. Only a conspiracy would be able to hide the truth, which was documented," she said.

Bromfield, after only learning this year about FOIL requests, filed one on Feb. 18, 2022 to the New York State Department of Health to determine if BronxCare ever reported the broken-toe incident. The department responded in a letter dated April 6, 2022, that no records of the incident had been located. After obtaining what she calls “the smoking gun” from the NYSDOH, Bromfield filed a motion to be allowed to amend her lawsuit for a second time to include the new information. Bromfield's first request to amend her complaint was based on Ian Andrews's report.

Marc A. Sittenreich, one of BronxCare’s Garfunkel Wild attorneys, in a letter dated July 22, 2022, asked Magistrate Judge Cave to seal the letter Bromfield received from NYSDOH or to redact the name of the resident-patient. Judge Cave granted the motion sealing both Bromfield’s letter asking the Court to take judicial notice and the FOIL response letter.

Bromfield has written a letter dated Sept. 7, 2022, to Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr., who is presiding over the case, asking that the NYSDOH letter be unsealed, after appropriate redactions, including the patient’s name. At the very least, lawyers who may consider representing her should be allowed access to the letter, she wrote.

She wrote that the NYSDOH response “exposes an elaborate fraud scheme, constructive fraud, conspiracy, and a coverup…” Bromfield also wrote, “Had defendant Collora or the Hospital staff on March 20, 2016, reported the said incident as required by state and federal law to NYSDOH, an independent on-sight investigation would have followed, a real investigation over which Collora would have absolutely no control or influence to manipulate the outcome, and I would still be working at the Hospital.”

Bromfield is awaiting Judge Carter’s response and a decision about whether she’ll be able to amend her complaint.  

Separately, Bromfield wrote a whistleblower complaint to Dr. Mary T. Bassett, the New York State Department of Health Commissioner on  Sept. 19, 2022.

“I write to you as a Whistleblower,” Bromfield’s letter to Commissioner Bassett, reads in part. “I was forced to resign by the Director of Human Resources, Mariea Collora, on April 19, 2016. Ms. Collora falsely claimed that an elderly resident had suffered a broken-toe injury during my shift, either on March 17 or March 18, 2016.” The letter goes on to explain how she obtained the Andrews report and the FOIL response letter.

“During my on-going case the hospital even had another LPN, George Brobbey, falsely state that the incident occurred on March 19, 2016 to support the conspiracy that led to my forced resignation,” Bromfield wrote in the letter to the commissioner. Bromfield’s letter also added: “As a conscientious professional I submit this information in the hope that NYSDOH will conduct the appropriate investigations to determine the truth and protect the safety of patients. Had BronxCare reported the incident as required by law, I would still be employed at the hospital.The incident also makes me wonder whether previous similar incidents have not been reported in the past. BronxCare’s lawyers from Garfunkel Wild, P.C., are also aware that the broken-toe incident was never reported, since they asked the court to seal the FOIL response letter I received from NYSDOH; a magistrate judge granted the request.”

Bromfield’s letter was copied to Governor Kathy Hochul and to Attorney General Letitia James. A copy was provided to Black Star News.

Bromfield says on the day she was forced to resign, she had just returned to work from another suspension. In the presence of the hospital’s chief nursing officer, Oliver Brown, the assistant director of nursing Yvonne Weatherburn, and her union representative Eugene Lashley, Collora allegedly blamed her—saying the patient’s broken-toe injury happened during her watch. "I will fire you on the spot if you don't resign,” Collora allegedly said. Bromfield says the union representative told her she would be able to keep all her benefits if she resigned. This turned out not to be true and she wasn’t even able to collect unemployment, she said.

Bromfield's home was recently foreclosed on. She was no longer able to maintain her mortgage payments due to her diminished income, she said.

When Black Star News contacted Garfunkel Wild, P.C. about  Bromfield's allegations,  Marianne Monroy, who is a partner and director, sent the following statement via e-mail message: “Defendants categorically deny the claims.  We refer you to the federal court docket for this lawsuit, including a prior summary judgment motion filed on August 16, 2019, which explains the true facts and circumstances underlying the end of the plaintiff’s employment with the BronxCare Special Care Center.” 

The summary judgment motion was rendered moot because Bromfield was allowed to amend her complaint the first time.

When Black Star News sent Monroy a follow-up e-mail message asking if BronxCare ever reported the patient broken-toe injury incident to the NYSDOH, she didn’t response. 

A spokesperson for the NYSDOH didn’t respond by deadline for this report.

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