Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014
Registered nurses kick off National Week of Actions mandating highest Ebola protocols
CHICAGO — Registered nurses in various cities across the country, including Chicago, kicked off a national week of action Oct. 21 demanding President Obama and the U.S. Congress take immediate steps to guarantee all hospitals and health care employers institute the highest Ebola protocols in their facilities to protect RNs, other health care workers, patients and the public.
The actions were organized by National Nurses United (NNU), the largest U.S. organization of nurses with 185,000 members.
At the Cook County Building in Chicago, nurses invited everyone to join them in signing NNU’s petition demanding the President and Congress act immediately to mandate “uniform, national standards and protocols that all hospitals must follow to safely protect patients, registered nurses, other front-line healthcare workers, and the public.”
“No matter where we are working, we are all Dallas nurses now,” said National Nurses United Co-President RN Jean Ross. “We [need to] demand the President, the Congress, and every hospital in the United States, ensure optimal protections are implemented immediately. That is how we are going to contain Ebola and protect our patients.”
For the past two months, NNU has been sounding the alarm on U.S. hospitals’ lack of preparation for Ebola. Last week, NNU held a national tele-press conference, releasing a statement by RNs that work at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, which describes the hospital’s inadequate protocols and protective equipment during the treatment of Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died Oct. 8.
Two of the nurses who cared for Duncan are now being treated for Ebola. Despite this, hospitals across the country have been slow to ramp up their preparedness for Ebola. In an online survey conducted by NNU and filled out by 3,000 nurses from over 780 facilities in 48 states and the District of Columbia, 84 percent indicated their hospital has not provided adequate training on Ebola with the opportunity to interact, ask questions and practice putting on and taking off the proper protective equipment and in many cases has insufficient protective gear and supplies and no thorough plan in place for the treatment of Ebola patients.
It is the hospital industry’s sluggish response to the crisis that prompted NNU’s call on President Obama to mandate improved safety standards in U.S. health facilities.
“Sadly, the problems expressed by the heroic Texas Health Presbyterian RNs was predictable in our fragmented, uncoordinated private healthcare system, and it mirrors concerns we’ve heard from nurses across the U.S.,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro. “Not one more patient, nurse, or health care worker should be put at risk due to a lack of health care facility preparedness,” DeMoro said in a letter to President Obama. “The United States should be setting the example on how to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus.”
Every health care employer must be directed to follow the Precautionary Principle and institute optimal protocols and personal protective equipment for Ebola that meets the highest standards used by Nebraska Medical Center, or a higher standard, including:
Full-body hazmat suits that meet the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F1670 standard for blood penetration, the ASTM F1671 standard for viral penetration which, leaves no skin exposed or unprotected.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved powered air purifying respirators with an assigned protection factor of at least 50, or a higher standard as appropriate.
At least two direct-care registered nurses caring for each Ebola patient with additional RNs assigned as needed (based on the direct care RN’s professional judgment), with no additional patient care assignments.
Continuous interactive training with the RNs who are exposed to patients, continuous updated training and education for all RNs that is responsive to the changing nature of disease, and continuous interactive training and expertise from facilities where state-of-the-art disease containment is occurring.
If the Employer has a program with standards that exceed those used by Nebraska Medical Center, the higher standard shall be used. The Ebola pandemic and the exposure of healthcare workers to the virus represent a clear and present danger to public health. We know that without these mandates to healthcare facilities, we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers at extreme risk. They are our first line of defense. We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons.