NEW YORK NURSE: June/July 2012
by Mark Genovese
“It never dawned on me that I would ever get in trouble. I put up a wall – I thought nothing could ever happen to me …. Before I knew it, I was being attacked.”
Donte Oakes lay in ambush and beat Long Island nurse Marie Sweeney nearly to death. Now he is headed to jail for 11 years – thanks to a New York state law that makes assaulting a nurse a felony. And Marie has become a powerful advocate for nurses, educating the public, lawmakers, and hospital administrators about how we can prevent these terrible attacks.
The sentencing on April 16 of her assailant won’t bring about justice on its own, said NYSNA member Marie Sweeney, “True justice will come when the hospital prevents such incidents from ever happening again.”
Psychiatric patient Oakes, was sentenced in Nassau County Court to 11 years in prison for the September 2010 incident at Franklin Hospital, in which Oakes attacked Sweeney with a broken chair leg. The attack left her without sight in her left eye and with persistent, head, back, and shoulder pain.
“This attack was foreseeable,” Sweeney said. Oakes had assaulted three of Sweeney’s colleagues. Hospital management was aware this individual had a history of violence and needed a higher level of security.
Sweeney is working with York State Assemblyman Rory Lancman’s office to promote violence prevention legislation and is working to obtain sponsors in the Senate.
This is, at least, the second prosecution of an assailant under the 2010 Violence Against Nurses law, which was a NYSNA priority bill for many years.
“NYSNA will continue to be a strong voice to stop violence against nurses,” said Nancy Kaleda, NYSNA’s deputy director. “All nurses, represented by a union or not, have the right to be safe on the job and treated with respect.