Registered nurses at 15 HCA Healthcare hospitals in seven states began actions to protest a lack of preparedness by the nation’s largest hospital chain that they say places nurses, other staff, and patients at risk in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, announced National Nurses United (NNU) today.
NNU, which represents 10,000 RNs at 19 HCA hospitals in California, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada and Texas, is demanding that HCA provide the optimal personal protective equipment (PPE) for nurses and other staff. That means N95 respirators or the more protective powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs), and other head-to-toe coverings.
Separately, RNs at HCA’s Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. will deliver a petition to hospital managers with their concerns about hospital COVID-19 preparedness
“Nurses at various HCA hospitals are reporting that they have had to work without proper protective equipment,” said Jean Ross, RN, president of National Nurses United.
“Nurses say they are not informed when they exposed to an infected patient. They are told to unsafely reuse masks and at one hospital they are even being told not to wear masks because it ‘scared the patients.’”
“Protecting our patients is our highest priority, but it becomes much harder when we don’t have the safe protections which puts us in danger of becoming infected,” said Angela Davis, RN, Medical Intensive Care Unit, a dedicated COVID-19 unit, at Research Medical Center Kansas City, Mo. “If we are no longer able to be at the bedside, who will be there to care for our patients?”
“When we are infected no one is safe,” said Kim Smith, RN, Intensive Care Unit, also a dedicated COVID-19 unit, at Doctors Regional Hospital/Corpus Christi Medical Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. “When we are infected, we become a real danger of infecting everyone else around us, patients, hospital staff, and a risk to our own families.”
HCA can well afford to be properly prepared for the pandemic, says NNU. Over the past decade HCA has made more than $23 billion in profits. “For the wealthiest hospital corporation in the United States to show such disregard for the health and safety of its caregivers, is disgraceful and unconscionable,” said Ross.
“We are facing the gravest public health crisis in a century,” said Gary Mousseau, RN, Endoscopy, Fawcett Memorial Hospital, Port Charlotte, Fla. “As nurses at HCA health care facilities across the country, it has been disheartening to see HCA’s poor response to our safety concerns.”
In a national survey of nearly 10,000 RNs in every U.S. state and territory, NNU found that HCA had among the worst records of pandemic preparedness.
- Only 35 percent of nurses at HCA Healthcare hospitals report having access to N95 respirators on their units, compared to 52 percent at other facilities
- 16 percent of nurses have access to PAPRs, compared to 23 percent of all nurses
- Just 7 percent report having enough PPE to protect staff and patients if there is a surge in patients, compared to 19 percent of all nurses
In the actions, nurses will survey their RN colleagues on PPE preparedness as they report to work at shift changes, marking checklist results on a large survey board as to whether their hospital has adequate PPE for RNs, proper isolation for infected patients, notification to staff about COVID-19 cases, and adequate COVID-19 testing for staff.
Some of the concerns RNs are reporting:
HCA West Florida Division – Will issue only one less protective surgical mask per shift. Employees will not be allowed to bring their own N95, a violation also of federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations.
Blake Medical Center, Bradenton, Fla. – Employee sent home for bringing own N95. Another told to enter room of patient under investigation without an N95 mask even though every other employee in the room had an N95 mask.
Central Florida Regional Hospital, Sanford, Fla. – Nurses told that they could not wear masks while working because it “scared the patients.”
Corpus Christi Medical Center, Corpus Christi, Texas – Nurses notified of exposure, but told to continue working until they showed symptoms, even though the virus can still be spread when an infected person is asymptomatic.
Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Sarasota, Fla. – Nurses exposed because negative pressure room was not working. Some 18 RNs were quarantined.
Fawcett Memorial Hospital, Port Charlotte, Fla. – Delay in reporting exposure to RNs.
Las Palmas Medical Center, El Paso, Texas – Employees in Mother-Baby units exposed to a COVID-19 positive physician. Employees not told of exposure until more than 48 hours after hospital learned about it. Nurses unsafely told to report to work until they learn their test results, potentially infecting patients, other staff.
Research Medical Center, Kansas City, Mo. – Delay in notification of being exposed to a suspected infected patients and staff and expected to continue reporting to work.