National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the country, sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump today to demand that he immediately and fully invoke the presidential authorities granted in the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of necessary personal protective equipment for health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The union called on the president to order manufacturers to urgently increase production of respirators, face shields, coveralls, gloves, gowns, testing equipment and supplies, ventilators and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machines.

“Across the nation, our health care workforce does not have the personal protective equipment it needs to safely care for patients without risking exposure to the virus,” NNU stated in the letter. “As a result, health care workers are at risk of illness and death, which puts our entire health care system at risk of collapse. Further, when health care workers are exposed to the virus, they risk transmitting the virus to their families, patients, and communities. If our country fails to immediately protect our health care workers, we will fail to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.”

NNU represents more than 155,000 registered nurses across the country, many of whom are on the frontlines of the pandemic caring for COVID-19 patients. The union said that the executive orders and presidential memorandum the White House has issued regarding the use of the Defense Production Act do not yet fully exercise the presidential authority available under the statute.

“The president has taken the first steps to exercise the authorities given to him by the Defense Production Act,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “We applaud him for using the statute to order ventilator production by General Motors, and we urge him to take similar actions to order manufacturers to immediately increase production of respirators, including N95s, and other personal protective equipment.”

The union has called on the president to immediately take the following actions to invoke the Defense Production Act:

Invoke Title III of the Defense Production Act immediately by directing increased production of equipment and supplies from existing manufacturers, directing other industrial manufacturing facilities to transition to production of the equipment and supplies needed in the COVID-19 response, and immediately generate manufacturing purchase orders to ensure expedient production of essential equipment and supplies;

  • Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to gather information on supplies and implement restrictions on hoarding; and
  • Ensure the immediate and continued release and distribution of personal protective equipment, testing equipment, ventilators, and ECMO machines in the strategic national stockpile.

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with more than 155,000 members nationwide, including in Coachella Valley. NNU plays a leadership role in safeguarding the health and safety of RNs and their patients and has won landmark legislation in the areas of staffing, safe patient handling, infectious disease, and workplace violence prevention.

Image Sources

  • PPE Needed: Shutterstock