Tens of thousands of registered nurses around the country yesterday staged strikes, rallies and marches to demand tougher Ebola safety precautions in the nation’s hospitals. National Nurses United (NNU) Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro said:
Nurses, who have been willing to stand by the patients whether it's the flu, whether it's Ebola, whether it's cancer, are now being asked to put themselves in harm's way unprotected, unguarded.
NNU is demanding optimal personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses and other caregivers who interact with Ebola patients. That means full-body hazmat suits that meet strict standards for blood penetration, viral penetration and that leave no skin exposed or unprotected, along with powered air purifying respirators. The union also is calling for rigorous training for RNs and other health professionals and a federal mandate that hospitals meet the PPE and training standards.
Actions included a huge march to the federal building in Oakland, Calif., (see photo above) where nurses filled boxes with the substandard type of respirator masks so many hospitals prefer and mailed them to the White House, as part of the demand for increased federal action to mandate hospitals to implement the optimal standards.
Nurses also struck at 86 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinic in California where they have been protesting the erosion of patient care standards in Kaiser facilities for months. NNU says Kaiser’s failure to adopt the optimal safeguards for Ebola as symbolic of its overall dismissal of nurses’ concerns about patient care.
In Washington, D.C., nurses at Providence Hospital staged a 24-hour strike over lack of Ebola preparedness and other health and safety issues. Later, several dozen nurses staged an “Ebola Die-In” in front of the White House (see photo below) to dramatize their demands.
Kelly Fields, an ER nurse at the hospital, told CBS DC:
We are not prepared for Ebola, despite what management is telling the residents and the D.C. City Council. We have not been trained, the equipment has not been identified.
Last month in letters to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called for “immediate action” on federal standards that include the “highest level of protective equipment,” including use of air purifying respirators and full body suits with hands-on training on the proper way to put on and take off the protective gear. Trumka also called for protection from retaliation against workers who report health and safety issues or who contract the Ebola virus or are restricted or placed under quarantine. Read more here.