When it comes to calling out sick, these nurses believe a new policy instituted by their employer, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, is both heartless and unfair.

“In the middle of a crisis, in the middle of a pandemic where we fighting for our lives, they change the policy?! Are you kidding me?” said Marie Gelin, an Emergency Room Nurse.

Approximately 50 nurses showed up to rally Friday outside Jacobi Medical Center.

Their main concern was to express outrage over a change in the sick pay policy that now requires a doctor’s note after just one absence, instead of three.

“For starters, after all we’ve given to this fight; it is simply a brutal slap in the face for our efforts in this war. This is a dishonor to our public sacrifice as public hospital nurses in the most deadly pandemic that we’ve had in this country in 100 years,” said Sean Petty, a Pediatric Emergency Room Nurse.

The New York State Nurses Association, which organized the rally, did not provide official numbers on how many nurses have gotten sick from COVID-19.

But the nurses tell us at least one nurse and one nurse’s aide at Jacobi have died from the virus while dozens of other workers have complained of COVID-related symptoms.

“It is long overdue that we stand up for our rights as protectors of this city. If we weren’t sick, you all would get sick!” said Kelley Cabrera, NYSNA LBU President at Jacobi Medical Center.

And while Telehealth visits are considered an acceptable form of documentation, some nurses say as a result of the pandemic, it can be difficult to find a doctor who can provide a sick note.

“I’m working with a brace and if I stay out, I won’t get paid because I need a doctor’s note! Mind you, the surgeon who was supposed to operate on me canceled my operation. Told me he couldn’t send me a note right now,” said Alecia Ortiz, a nurse.

In a memo obtained by NY1 dated April 10th, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation told workers the new policy is in place due to a high rate of call outs and absences that do not appear to be consistent with patterns of COVID infection.

When we reached out to a hospital spokesperson they did not comment on the memo.

However, they said “top priority remains the safety and wellness of our fearless nursing workforce.”