Just hours before Washington State health officials on Saturday morning (Feb. 29) confirmed the first known death in the United States from COVID-19, National Nurses United alleged that the nation’s hospitals are ill-prepared to deal with the disease.
National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States, with more than 150,000 members nationwide.
Despite University of California medical facilities being generally better prepared and equipped to treat challenging medical cases, the recent UC Davis Medical Center COVID-19 case highlights the vulnerability of the nation’s hospitals to this virus and the insufficiency of current Centers for Disease Control guidelines, the organization says.
The single COVID-19 patient admitted to the facility on Feb. 19 has now led to the self-quarantine at home of at least 36 RNs and 88 other health care workers.
These 124 nurses and health care workers, who are needed now more than ever, have instead been sidelined. Lack of preparedness will create an unsustainable national health care staffing crisis.
Nurses view the handling of this COVID-19 case as a system failure and not a success. National Nurses United RNs are speaking out because they are dedicated to protecting the health and safety of their patients, health care workers, and the public.
Nurses employed by the University of California medical centers had met with UC officials four times and written repeatedly, starting from Jan. 28, to notify them about the urgency to prepare for coronavirus, make information requests, and offer to work with them. On Feb. 18, UC nurses wrote to Janet Napolitano, the UC system president, to demand increased protection for nurses and patients against the coronavirus. UC Davis nurses on Feb. 11, eight days before this patient was admitted, approached hospital management and asked them to institute infection control plans that already existed and had been in place during the 2014 ebola outbreak, but the hospital did not.
“We know that we can be successful in getting all our hospitals prepared to control the spread of this virus,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, executive director of National Nurses United. “We are committed to working with hospitals and state and federal agencies to be ready. But nurses and health care workers need optimal staffing, equipment, and supplies to do so. This is not the time for hospital chains to cut corners or prioritize their profits. This is the time to go the extra mile and make sure health care workers, patients, and the public are protected at the highest standards.”
National Nurses United is conducting a survey of registered nurses across the country on hospital preparedness and will be releasing those results next week.
Preliminary results from more than 1,000 nurses in California are worrisome:
- Only 27 percent report that there is a plan in place to isolate a patient with a possible novel coronavirus infection. 47 percent report they don’t know if there is a plan.
- Only 73 percent report that they have access to N95 respirators on their units; 47 percent report access to powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) on their units.
- Only 27 percent report that their employer has sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) stock on hand to protect staff if there is a rapid surge in patients with possible coronavirus infections; 44 percent don’t know.
- In addition to the survey, NNU has sent letters to the federal Centers for Disease Control, asking it to strengthen its guidelines on COVID-19, and to the California Department of Public Health, Cal-OSHA, and the World Health Organization outlining its concerns and recommendations.
- Covid-19 patient: Shutterstock