The Head Of Largest Nurses Union In The U.S. Says They “Don't Have Protections They Need” From Coronavirus - National Nurses United President Says Nurses ‘Need More Protections To Fight’ COVID-19
Nurses across the United States are currently on the front lines of trying to mitigate the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, but the head of the country's largest Union for Registered Nurses (RNs) says they don't have the protection necessary for their job.
Bonnie Castillo, the Executive Director for National Nurses United (NNU), expressed concerns that a lack of personal protective equipment and other protections coordinated between local, state and federal agencies may result in more Nurses becoming infected by the Coronavirus. And she said this, in turn, could lead to more infections within the hospital and among the Nurses' family members.
"Their ‘heart is aching,’" Castillo told ABC News. "The ‘anger is increasing because they know that there's no reason for this.’ ‘They love taking care of crises, that's what they do - but to not have the protections that they need in order to do it is becoming increasingly frustrating.’"
Castillo, whose NNU represents 150,000 RNs across the U.S., said that "every day" her organization hears from Nurses who say they don't have sufficient resources to confront COVID-19 - of which there are over 6,400 cases throughout all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
"Nurses are working with ‘inadequate’ protections and that ranges from head coverings, respirators, appropriate gowns, covers for their legs and their feet," Castillo said. "Instead, (they) ‘are being given a surgical mask, a paper gown and a pair of surgical gloves.’ ‘That is not going to protect the Nurse and it's not going to protect anyone else.’"
Castillo said the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) could cause Nurses to become exposed to COVID-19 and criticized hospitals for not doing enough to prepare, saying that Nurses who brought in their own N95 masks were not allowed to use them.
She warned that Nurses who become infected would have to self-isolate - thus risking a Nurses’ shortage - in order to prevent exposing other patients to the virus, such as those with cancer or heart conditions. "Right now, ‘for them to be doing this in a pandemic, it's not just affecting us, it's affecting our whole communities. It's affecting our Nation,’" Castillo said.
The issues nurses are facing go beyond PPE, though, Castillo said.
She said that a lack of coordination between local, state and federal agencies and hospitals has led to confusion regarding when it's appropriate for people to go to hospitals for the new Coronavirus, which can lead to overcrowding and exposure for those not infected.
"What we're ‘lacking is a comprehensive, cohesive public health response, and that starts with educating the public about when to come into the emergency room and when not to come into the emergency room,’" she said. "That's ‘starting to ramp up some, but instead, what happens is because there is confusion and, actually, in some cases, anxiety and panic, everyone is coming to the emergency room and they could potentially be exposed if there is not adequate screening and isolation of the potential (COVID-19) patients.’"
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