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Nurses say lack of availability of protective equipment worsening

By The Final Call | Last updated: Mar 25, 2020 - 4:32:48 PM

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According to National Nurses United, a survey of registered nurses found “the vast majority of United States hospitals and health care facilities are still unprepared to handle and contain cases of Covid-19.

“Hospitals and other health care facilities have not adequately prepared to protect health care workers who are responding to the outbreak,” the Oakland-based group said March 23. “Survey results released today that have been updated from the initial issuance on March 5 show that RNs report little improvement in many areas of preparedness and, notably, a worsening of conditions on questions determining the availability and supply of personal protection equipment for a surge in patients—exactly what the country is expecting will happen imminently.”

Bonnie Castillo, RN and executive director of National Nurses United, said, “Clearly, the nation’s health facilities are still not ready and are in even worse shape than before in some respects to handle Covid-19. We need to act now and act fast. Priority number one is to protect the health and safety of our nurses and health care workers.”

According to National Nurses United, the survey included more than 8,200 nurses reporting through March 16, from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Marshall Islands, and the Virgin Islands. Among findings reported by the group:

46 percent of respondents said their employer has provided them information about Covid-19 and how to recognize and respond to possible cases.

31 percent said there is a plan in place to isolate a patient with a possible Covid-19 infection. Twenty-three percent said they don’t know if there is a plan.

Only 55 percent of nurses reported having access to N95 respirators on their units, while 27 percent had access to powered air-purifying respirators.

Only 24 percent said their employer has sufficient personal protection equipment on hand to protect staff if there is a rapid surge in patients with possible coronavirus infections, while 38 percent don’t know.

Only 63 percent said they had been trained on safely donning and doffing personal protection equipment in the previous year.

65 percent had been fit tested in the previous year; 34 percent had not been fit tested in the previous year.

Only 13 percent said their employer has an overflow plan to place additional, trained staff to enable safe care provision to patients on isolation for possible novel coronavirus; 42 percent they don’t know.

Only 19 percent said their employer has a policy to address employees with suspected or known exposure to novel coronavirus, while 42 percent don’t know.

58 percent reported their employer has instituted travel/exposure history screening for all patients with fever and/or respiratory symptoms.

 Nurses want “government agencies, public and private health employers, government officials, elected officials, and members of Congress to do everything in their power to expand capacity instead of weakening infection control and worker protection standards,” said the group. “The federal government should call on industry to immediately begin manufacturing the personal protection equipment health care workers need to do their jobs with adequate protection, manufacturing ventilators, reopening closed hospitals and increase bed capacity, build additional facilities, and more,” said National Nurses United.

The group added, “Nurses are also calling for a coordinated effort to release and distribute personal protection equipment from state and federal stockpiles to ensure that health care workers on the front lines are benefiting from them, because currently they are not seeing these supplies making it to their facilities.”

A national online petition in favor of protecting nurses garnered over 150,000 signatures in a few days, the group said.