Press conference to release results of national nurse survey about COVID-19 preparedness
Results show hospitals are unprepared: confirm little planning, poor communication, and shortage of equipment
National Nurses United petitions U.S. OSHA to act
March 4, 2020 -- A nationwide survey National Nurses United (NNU) conducted of registered nurses, the country’s frontline health care staff, reveals that the vast majority of United States hospitals and health care facilities are unprepared to handle and contain cases of COVID-19, announced NNU, the country’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses.
Results will be presented at a press conference Thursday, March 5 at 10 a.m. PST. and can be accessed after 11 a.m. PST at this link.
What: Press conference to release national COVID-19 RN survey results
When: Thursday, March 5, 10 a.m. PST
Who: Bonnie Castillo, RN and executive director of National Nurses United, NNU nurse leaders who can speak about RN experiences, and Jane Thomason, NNU industrial hygienist
How to participate: RSVP at this link. The conference will also be livestreamed on the NNU COVID-19 page and media can dial into the conference by calling 15 minutes ahead of time into (844) 202-1833 with conference ID 9579551.
Also today, NNU petitioned the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to adopt an emergency temporary standard to protect health care workers, patients, and the public. Currently, no enforceable OSHA infectious diseases standard exists nationally.
While the survey is ongoing, thousands of responses show that high percentages of hospitals do not have plans, isolation procedures, and policies in place for COVID-19; that communication to staff by employers is poor or nonexistent; that hospitals are lacking sufficient stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) or are not making current stocks readily available, and have not provided training and practice to staff on how to properly use PPE.
“The survey results confirm what we have been hearing from nurses across the country: Hospitals are not prepared. This crisis highlights our country’s completely fractured health care system and failure to invest in public health,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN and executive director of National Nurses United. “Facilities don’t have a plan, or they haven’t explained the plan, or they don’t have the supplies, equipment, and training to carry out any plan. The outcome of this chaos is that health care workers, patients, and the entire community are exposed to this virus and needlessly put at risk.”
NNU nurses have been demanding that health care facility employers, the presidential administration, and federal and state health officials and regulatory bodies follow the precautionary principle in their response to COVID-19, meaning that they act to protect workers, patients, and the public even before they know for certain something is harmful.
Of employers, NNU is asking the following:
- Employers shall implement plans and protocols in response to COVID-19 based on the precautionary principle, which holds that, lacking scientific consensus that a proposed action, policy, or act is not harmful – particularly if that harm has the potential to be catastrophic – such action, policy, or act should not be implemented and the maximum safeguards should be pursued.
- Employers shall clearly communicate with all RNs/health care workers, including notifying nurses when there is a possible or confirmed COVID-19 case.
- Employers shall provide education and training for all RNs/health care workers, including on protective gear, donning and doffing, and all other protocols relating to COVID-19.
- Employers shall provide the highest level of protection, including functioning negative pressure rooms and personal protective equipment for nurses providing care to possible and confirmed COVID-19 cases. Employers must ensure negative pressure rooms remain functional at all times during use. Highest level of PPE must include PAPR, coveralls meeting ASTM (American Standard for Testing and Materials) standard, gloves, temporary scrubs, and other protections.
- Employers shall plan for surge of patients with possible or confirmed COVID-19, including plans to isolate, cohort, and to provide safe staffing.
- Employers shall conduct a thorough investigation after a COVID patient is identified to ensure all staff and individuals who were exposed are identified and notified. Any nurse/health care worker who is exposed to COVID-19 will be placed on precautionary leave for at least 14 days and will maintain pay and other benefits during the full length of that leave.
Of government, NNU is asking the following:
- All registered nurses and other health care workers must receive the highest level of protection in their workplaces, as determined by the precautionary principle.
- The CDC must improve screening criteria and testing capacity to ensure prompt recognition of and response to COVID-19 cases.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration must promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect health care workers from emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19 as soon as possible.
- Congress and the administration must ensure that any vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 that is developed with U.S. taxpayer dollars is provided to the American public when needed for free.
- Congress must act immediately to pass an emergency spending package to fund the emergency response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Nurses are confident that we can contain this disease and prevent unnecessary deaths and suffering,” said Cathy Kennedy, RN and a vice president of the NNU Executive Council. “But our employers and the government need to provide us with the right guidelines, staffing, equipment, and supplies in order for us to do this work safely. We, our patients, and the public deserve nothing less.”
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.