Nurses at a California hospital are deeply concerned about their health without certain protective gear for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and they’ve reacted in protest.
According to New York Post, nurses at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, grew concerned about treating coronavirus patients without first being able to secure N95 masks. This specific type of protection filters out 95 percent of all airborne particles, including ones too tiny to be blocked by regular masks. Hospital administrators told nurses that they weren’t necessary and didn’t provide them, according to one nurse Mike Gulick.
Meanwhie, his wife, who is also a nurse, not only wore an N95 mask, but she also covered it with a second air-purifying respirator while she treated COVID-19 patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Last week, a nurse on Gulick’s ward tested positive for the coronavirus. The following day doctors doing rounds on their ward questioned why nurses weren’t wearing N95 masks and told them they should have better protection, according to Gulick.
These incidents were enough for a couple of nurses to tell their managers that they wouldn’t enter COVID-19 patient rooms without N95 masks. They were suspended by the hospital soon after, according to the group representing them National Nurses Union. Ten nurses are now receiving pay but they are not allowed to return to work. An investigation is underway by human resources, the union said.
These California nurses join a nationwide group of healthcare workers who are frustrated with their lack of protection during the coronavirus pandemic. In the Bronx, nurses have protested outside with signs reading “Respect Public Healthcare Nurses.” Some nurses have even resorted to making or accepting homemade protective gear.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines don’t require N95 masks for COVID-19 caregivers, however, many hospitals are opting for the additional protection because the coronavirus has proven to be highly contagious. On Wednesday, the CDC said at least 9,200 heath care workers have been infected.
Saint John’s argued in a Tuesday statement that they’ve provided N95 masks to all nurses tending to COVID-19 patients and those awaiting test results. The statement mentioned that the hospital has increased its supply and was disinfecting masks daily.
“It’s no secret there is a national shortage,” said the statement. The hospital did not comment on the suspended nurses.
One Saint John’s nurse, Angela Gatdula, who contracted COVID-19 said she asked hospital managers why doctors were wearing N95 masks but nurses were not. She says they told her that the CDC mentioned surgical masks were enough to keep her safe. She fell sick with a dry cough, severe body aches and joint pain afterwards.
“When I got the phone call that I was positive, I got really scared,” she said. Gatdula is now recovering and is expected to return to work next week. “The next nurse that gets this might not be lucky. They might require hospitalization. They might die,” she said.