Fountain Valley Regional Hospital health care workers held a rally outside of their work Thursday demanding administrators increase personal protective equipment and testing for COVID-19.
Joshua Jesus, a radiology technician at the hospital for the past seven years, said he and his co-workers have been upset at a breakdown in communication with administrators over proper quarantining of patients and supply of PPE at the hospital since the pandemic began.
“They’re not really listening to us as members of our union,” Jesus said.
“We put in complaints with Orange County public health and they’ve come around throughout the hospital to take notes on what’s going on and the hospital has made some changes recently as part of the complaints we did file, but it took us filing a complaint to finally make changes and listen, because when we’ve discussed issues before, nothing was being done.”
Supply of PPE was not being doled out evenhandedly, Jesus said.
“It was a communication thing with getting the proper PPE. Where do we get it from, how much do we have? And the hospital would say we have so much PPE,” Jesus said. “If we were to ask them for it it would trickle down to the staff and it was hit or miss depending on the department.”
Also, there were times when PPE would be used while treating a COVID-19 patient and then not discarded before treating a non-coronavirus patient, he said.
There has also been some confusion about where to stage and place patients with the virus and those without, Jesus said. Some patients who were suspected of the virus were not quarantined while awaiting test results, he added.
That has changed since the National Union of Healthcare Workers lodged complaints and public health officials have provided guidance, Jesus said.
“Now we have dedicated COVID areas taped off, and that’s how it kind of should have been in the beginning,” Jesus said.
Another important incident happened about a month ago when an employee told management they had family members who tested positive for COVID-19, but instead of being told to quarantine they had him continue reporting to work and monitoring his symptoms, Jesus said.
“Five days later he ended up in the hospital as a patient and he was Covid positive,” Jesus said.
Contact tracing among employees and patients was actually better at the beginning of the pandemic than it is now, Jesus said.
The hospital was slammed with a flood of patients from area skilled nursing facilities, which had major outbreaks in the county that fueled its rising death toll for weeks until officials took PPE out of the county’s stockpile and provided it to the nursing facilities.
County officials also provided temporary healthcare workers to the nursing homes to help keep staff up when employees got infected.
The hospital released this statement regarding the union’s demands:
“The hospital is fully operational and our staff’s focus, as always, is on providing exceptional quality patient care. We continue to follow the guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff during this unprecedented pandemic.
“A team of surveyors from the California Department of Public Health came to our hospital over several days late last month. We worked collaboratively with the surveyors and quickly implemented some changes to address issues they raised. We anticipate receiving the survey report within the next couple of weeks. We take patient safety very seriously, and we are committed to continuous improvement in quality and safety. We continue to follow the guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We can safely care for our patients with the PPE supplies we currently have. Our team is actively sourcing around the world for additional supplies. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our patients and staff.
“To prevent a potential exposure, all physicians, nurses and staff who care for patients with COVID-19 are required to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment, including face masks and face shield or goggles.
“Our physicians, nurses and other caregivers are required to change their PPE after treating a COVID-positive patient and before they begin treating a non-COVID patient, and to maintain all appropriate patient isolation protocols.
“They do not wear the N95 masks used when caring for COVID-positive patients when they are treating non-COVID patients. As a further precaution, our infection control personnel are present in the units to make sure our staff are correctly donning and doffing their PPE.
“Testing of patients is provided based on symptoms and physician order. If an employee requires testing, we send them to an appropriate testing site within the community as Fountain Valley Regional Hospital is not a COVID-19 testing center.
“While we value all of our employees who are represented by the NUHW, we are disappointed that the union is taking this action. Our hospital has been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Orange County and we take immense pride in the extraordinary professionalism and dedication our physicians, nurses and other staff have demonstrated every day in caring for our COVID-19 patients. This work has not been easy, but they have risen to the challenge.”
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