Nurses calling on governor and employers to help fight coronavirus

Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 7:50 AM PDT
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Nevada union nurses were one of 18 states that sent letters to governors and employers demanding protection while fighting COVID-19.

According to National Nurses United (NNU) union nurses are demanding the following from states:

•Provide housing for any nurse who cares for a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 or cares for a patient under investigation for COVID-19, at the state's expense, for the duration of the positive or suspected patients’ stay and for at least 14 days following the departures of any positive or suspected COVID-19 patients. •Provide child care to ensure that all nurses may report to work for their regularly scheduled shifts. Because schools, day care centers, and elder care centers may be closed for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, NNU asks that the state make arrangements to provide paid child and elder care for nurses and other health care workers. •Accommodate high risk nurses. NNU calls on the state to insist that all hospitals accommodate any nurses at high risk for COVID-19 and do not assign them to care for suspected or confirmed COVID patients. •Give presumptive eligibility to health care workers for COVID-19. NNU demands that states make sure all health care workers are automatically presumed eligible for workers' compensation if they contract COVID-19.

NNU also sent letters to employers. The union said demands of individual hospital employers varied because some hospitals had already agreed to provide some of the protections that nurses need.

NNU's demands included that employers:

·Notify all nurses who have come into contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient or hospital staff member who has been exposed. ·Implement universal masking of all workers, while maintaining a protocol of N95 respirators for nurses caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. ·Provide training and assume all liability for work performed by nurses working outside their area of clinical competence. Further, NNU demands the hospital will not discipline or report to state boards of nursing any nurses who may make inadvertent errors while working outside of their area of clinical competence to care for patients during this emergency. ·Provide universal testing of all hospital employees and make retesting available upon request to avoid false negatives. ·Not oppose workers' compensation claims related to COVID-19. ·Not require nurses that are high risk related to COVID-19 to provide care for positive or suspected COVID patients.

The union is also asking employers to provide housing and child care to nurses, similar to the demand of states.

Local nurse Tamara Erickson works for St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center. Erickson said she wants clearer communication from the hospital regarding protection. She said safe nurses means safe patient care.

"We want to do the right thing by our patients, we want to do the right thing for ourselves, as well as our family, that is kind of the nature of nursing.”

Erickson continued, “We are willing to be there and do what needs doing, we just like to do it knowing we are safe and feel we have support behind us."

St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center sent us this full statement:

“Saint Mary’s is committed to protecting the safety of hospital patients, healthcare providers and the community and remains in close contact with the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure proper precautions are followed. In response to your inquiry regarding a Saint Mary’s nurse concern, rest assured, Saint Mary’s PPE practices exceed recommendations provided by CDC guidelines in this current crisis situation. Saint Mary’s also communicates daily on the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts Saint Mary’s practices and protocols, including any changing policies around PPE use. As to your inquiry regarding the press release from National Nurses United (NNU), though we are still reviewing all demands listed in the NNU press release, below are responses to areas that have already been in place or reviewed by Saint Mary’s. •Saint Mary’s already works closely with the Washoe County Health District in the notification of all person who have interacts with COVID-19 positive individuals, including nurses. •Saint Mary’s has had universal masking in place, with the type of mask depend on the locations of staff’s working locations. •With the shortage of testing, Nevada has placed a priority on testing for key demographics, which includes healthcare workers. •Saint Mary’s follows all labor laws in regards to worker compensation and does not deny workers claims for those injured or exposed during their working duties.”

We reached out to Governor Steve Sisolak's office and have yet to hear back. According to NNU it has not heard back from his office either.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2020