Fired Sinai Grace Nurse Files Whistleblower Lawsuit, Says Hospital Is Overwhelmed

A nurse is filing a whistleblower lawsuit against a Detroit hospital that fired her for posting a video of herself in protective gear. Kenisa Barkai says that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed longtime issues.

A Detroit nurse who was fired after posting a video on Facebook complaining about working conditions at Detroit’s Sinai Grace Hospital is suing to be reinstated and have her concerns addressed.

Kenisa Barkai was a nurse at the Detroit Medical Center’s Sinai Grace. She posted a brief Facebook video showing the protective equipment she needed to wear.

She says hospital officials called it a violation of social media policy.

Listen: Kenisa Barkai, fired Sinai Grace nurse, calls for better working conditions. 

Barkai says she had threatened to inform state officials about the critical staffing shortage and has filed a whistleblower lawsuit asking to be reinstated to her job. 

“This has been very, very hard,” Barkai says. “Sinai-Grace, they’ve been family to me for a long time. It’s always a place that I’ve considered home for employment.”

Escalating problems

Sinai-Grace says it does not comment on personnel matters, but the hospital has come under scrutiny recently. 

The hospital is located near several nursing homes with elderly people especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The Detroit News reports so many COVID-19 patients flooded Sinai-Grace that several died in emergency room hallways because there were no rooms available. CNN published pictures of bodies piled up at the hospital. And ER night-shift workers recently staged a sit-in, demanding extra help and equipment.

“I speak for many, many nurses across the state of Michigan that have also been screaming out with no avail.”

Barkai says the pandemic exacerbated existing staffing issues at the hospital. 

“We don’t even have any regular staffing on these units. Even prior to COVID, they were having to outsource,” Barkai says. “We need a nurses union. We need someone who will be able to speak for us and protect us in certain working conditions.”

She says medical staff in the hospital are exhausted. 

“I am friends with a young lady who had to stay 25 hours and work” during the sit-in, Barkai says. “They’re tired, and they’re taking on roles of nurse’s aide, dietary, housekeeping.”

She says he sit-in, which she did not participate, was the result of pent-up frustrations over long shifts. And she wants to get back to work ⁠alongside her colleagues.

“I speak for many, many nurses across the state of Michigan that have also been screaming out with no avail. I would take my job back in a heart beat, because I want to be there with them, fighting on the front lines,” Barkai says. 

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  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.