Ten nurses at a Santa Monica hospital who were suspended 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, the union said.
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The union wants the disciplinary letters rescinded, and is also calling for: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.
Attempts to reach Providence officials Wednesday were not successful, but hospital officials said last week that 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 same guidelines are followed by most hospitals across the United States,” according to Providence. “There is a national shortage of PPE, including N95 masks. We do not manufacture these, and are at the mercy of the supply chain to increase our supplies.
“We are pleased that within the last week we received an increase in inventory and the FDA granted authorization to reprocess N95 masks, enabling us to provide them to all caregivers treating COVID-19 patients.”
The hospital declined to comment specifically on the suspended nurses, citing employee privacy issues.
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