Ten nurses at a Santa Monica hospital who were suspended with pay after refusing to treat coronavirus patients without N95 respirator masks have been reinstated, but were given written warnings in their employment records, the state nurses union announced Wednesday.
According to the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, at least 15 nurses at Providence Saint John’s Health Center refused to treat coronavirus patients last week unless they were given N95 masks or higher-standard equipment. Ten of those nurses were subsequently suspended.
Providence is now providing the N95 masks to nurses treating COVID-19 patients.
“While the nurses welcome the opportunity to get back to work during this pandemic, they will continue to fight for proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and stand up against the disciplinary actions. The nurses want PPE that provides airborne, droplet, and contact precautions against the virus, as required by Cal-OSHA standards,” a CNA statement said.
The union wants the disciplinary letters rescinded, and is also calling for:
— the establishment of a committee of RNs appointed by nurses to be on the hospital’s COVID-19 pandemic task force;
— hotel vouchers for nurses who don’t want to infect their family members;
— that the hospital grant RNs workers’ compensation claims for COVID-19.
Providence officials said their nurses were always provided with protective equipment outlined in guidelines in set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the state.
“These nurses had been provided CDC-approved masks for the level of care they were providing, protocol practiced at hospitals across the nation,” a Providence official told City News Service on Wednesday. “Thankfully, our organization has begun receiving shipments of N95 masks, so we now are able to offer all nurses that higher level of mask, easing their concerns.”
The hospital also touted its safety record in a statement released Tuesday.
“While one caregiver infection is too many, less than 0.17% of our 35,000 caregivers across our entire Southern California delivery network have contracted COVID-19 in the workplace since the pandemic began compared to national statistics that place the infection rate at 11%,” the statement said.
The hospital declined to comment specifically on the reinstated nurses’ disciplinary status, citing employee privacy issues.
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