Four days after registered nurses made the same case at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, leaders of the California Nurses Association (CNA) and National Nurses United are this morning meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown in Sacramento to review ways to make California the national leader in protecting nurses, other frontline health care workers, patients and the public from the Ebola virus.
As previously reported here, St. Joe nurses--who just so happen to be seeking CNA representation--delivered a letter to Chief Executive Officer Steve Moreau proposing Ebola preparedness standards for the Orange hospital that would "include precautions and protections that reflect the highest standards used by the Nebraska Medical Center at the University of Nebraska."
St. Joseph responded with a press statement:
We are deeply disappointed that the nurses' union would use scare tactics about a truly international health care crisis in Ebola to address labor issues. We are in the midst of a comprehensive training and education platform to meet and exceed CDC guidelines about Ebola and acquiring additional supplies and equipment.
Meanwhile, some St. Joseph employees staged a counter protest. "This was just self-serving for union propaganda, that's my stance," a nurse who only identified herself as Beth told ABC 7. "I feel safe."
An "appalled" CNA and protesting RNs accused St. Joseph of allowing "supervisors and other RNs who don't do direct patient care with staging a protest on hospital property with signs saying 'Shame on CNA for preying on fear.'"
The union and union-seeking RNs also didn't much like the hospital administration's statement, accusing St. Joseph of "attacking the nurses' union for using scare tactics" to "address labor issues" without responding to concerns about whether the facility is "prepared to deal with infectious diseases."
"Contrary to management's assertion, St Joseph's RNs recognize the hospital is not prepared to deal with Ebola, which is why these requests are so urgently necessary," reads a CNA statement. "RNs and other healthcare workers are truly frightened, with good reason after the disastrous situation in Dallas at another hospital that was also 'prepared' to deal with Ebola. RNs are not looking for platitudes or future plans, but immediate action now to protect the lives of RNs and patients. After all, RNs' right not to have their lives placed in danger by doing their jobs may be ultimate 'labor issue.'"
Marlene Tucay, a St. Joseph RN, also says in the statement: "We are extremely disappointed that hospital administrators seek to undermine our legal and moral responsibility to advocate for our patients during this Ebola crisis. We believe management should listen to the caregivers and enact these standards now, for the good of RNs, other healthcare workers and the patients in our community." -
Specifically, the protesting RNs want:
* Optimal personal protective equipment for Ebola that meets the highest standards used by the University of Nebraska; * Continuous interactive training with the RNs who are exposed to patients; * RNs to have the right to refuse to care for an Ebola patient if, in the RN's judgment, the conditions are unsafe; * At least two nurses will care for each Ebola patient with additional nurses added as needed, and they shall not have other patient assignments; * A medical services program at no cost to the employees that includes testing for any RN who requests it who believes he/she may have been exposed to Ebola at the hospital; * RNs who are required to miss scheduled shifts as a result of exposure to an infectious disease shall be placed on administrative leave without loss of pay or PTO; * RNs who are required to miss scheduled shifts as a result of exposure to an infectious disease shall not be penalized or disciplined in any way.
These standards are used by four other St Joseph hospitals in California where RNs are already represented by CNA, the union claims.
Hours before the Orange protest, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced these recommended guidelines for health care workers, emergency responders, laboratory workers, airline flight crews, airport staff and mortuary employees.
* Ensure that workers at risk of exposure to Ebola wear gloves, impermeable body coverings, face shields or other eye and face protection, and appropriate respiratory protection; * Ensure that all personal protective equipment is adequate to prevent the passage of bodily fluids to the employee's clothing and skin; * Train employees in the use of all applicable protective equipment, including respirators; * Instruct employees on how to safely put on and take off equipment; * Give employees opportunities to practice with the respirators and other equipment they will use; * Provide dedicated, separate areas for the donning and removing of protective gear; * Use either a buddy system or other means of assisting employees in donning and removing protective equipment; * Provide additional protective gear, such as double gloves and disposable shoe and leg coverings, in environments where copious amounts of blood, vomit, feces or other bodily fluids are present; and * Ensure that workers conducting aerosol-generating procedures such as intubation or bronchoscopy perform the procedures in an airborne infection isolation room, if feasible, or at least in a private room with the door closed.
The state also reminded employers and workers that any suspected cases of Ebola must be promptly reported to the local public health department.
Besides making the same pitch to Gov. Brown about the University of Nebraska standards on behalf of the CNA today, National Nurses United has called on President Obama and Congress to mandate them as well. A national petition can be signed here.
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Ironically, a week or so before the St. Joseph of Orange protest, the same hospital was being heralded in the media for its new, $104,000 germ-zapping robot (nicknamed "Gigi").
After being wheeled into patient rooms (that all humans have left), Gigi begins blasting ultraviolet light that's 25,000 times more powerful than sunlight in killing contagion. After five or 10 minutes, the germs' DNA are so badly damaged that they can't replicate and they die. It's being hailed as an important new tool in fighting Ebola, as human workers can can clean and disinfect a room by hand to an 85 percent level of cleanliness while Gigi can achieve 99.9 percent.
One wonders if there is a RN-D2 robot on a drawing board somewhere to replace union-seekers.