Two PSJHC nurses told CNN that they and eight other nurses were suspended on pay after refusing to enter the rooms of coronavirus patients on April 9 without an N95 mask.
The hospital said there was no N95 mask for them and insisted they wear surgical masks instead, said the nurses, even though other health care workers hospital had received N95 masks.
In a photo shared with CNN, taken after nurses refused to enter Covid’s patient rooms inside the facility, eight nurses are seen and seven raise their fists inside the PSJHC.
“I was really fed up and demanded that my hospital do better and do good for us,” Michael Gulick, one of the suspended nurses, told CNN. “Especially when we saw glaring signs that there was no reason for a shortage. “
PSJHC declined to specifically comment on the issues with its staff, saying they do not comment on staff issues to protect the privacy of their employees, but confirmed that 10 nurses have been placed on paid administrative leave.
“Each of our nurses caring for Covid-19 positive patients and patients under investigation (PUI) has received appropriate PPE according to the CDC, WHO and state guidelines,” said the spokesperson. from Patricia Aidem hospital in a press release. “These same guidelines are followed by most hospitals in the United States. “
Current CDC policy recommends that healthcare professionals treating Covid-19 or PUI patients wear respirators of level N95 or higher. Although N95 masks are “preferred”, health care professionals should only wear face masks – surgical masks – when respirators are not available.
Since nurses refused to enter patient rooms, N95 policy has changed. Aidem says it is because the hospital has received “an increase” in N95 masks and is starting to disinfect and reuse the masks, “which allows us to provide them to all caregivers who treat Covid-19 patients” .
PSJHC human resources met individually with the 10 nurses, according to Gulick and Jack Cline, another suspended nurse, telling them that they are still suspended while they conduct an investigation that could last for weeks.
Their suspension comes as hospitals across the country see an overwhelming wave of patients as Covid-19 continues to spread.
On Friday afternoon in Los Angeles County, where Santa Monica is located, the county health department said it had experienced the largest increase in deaths from Covid-19 for three consecutive days. In the past 24 hours, the city of Santa Monica reported seeing an increase of 100 Covid-19 cases.
N95 masks are essential to prevent healthcare workers from acquiring coronavirus because they block at least 95% of particles in the air – like the new coronavirus – according to the FDA. Many hospitals in the United States are scrambling to get more masks for their workers during the global pandemic, but this is proving difficult as there is a global shortage of masks.
Labor and delivery nurses obtained N95 masks, Covid-19 nurses not
Gulick and Cline told CNN that the hospital would not give them N95 masks when they asked for them.
They said they only received surgical masks while doctors, technicians and clinicians involved in the treatment of patients with coronavirus received N95 masks.
The nurses say they doubted the hospital’s statement that the N95 masks were weak because they saw so many colleagues wearing the masks. The nurses said that all nurses in the coronavirus unit had received surgical masks.
Aidem described this characterization as incorrect, saying, “N95 is necessary when clinicians perform aerosolization procedures”, or any procedure that could cause the patient to get airborne.
But the nurses say other staff who don’t treat Covid-19 patients, such as labor and birth nurses, have received N95 masks.
CNN spoke with Lizabeth Baker Wade, labor and delivery nurse at PSJHC and union representative at the hospital, who confirmed that she had access to N95 respirators “whenever we asked for it.”
Baker Wade took a photo of the nurses who demonstrated on April 9.
“The N95s are always available on all units for use in emergencies and for aerosol procedures,” said Aidem, when asked to explain why certain hospital units such as work nurses and had received N95 masks. “All of our clinicians receive the appropriate equipment based on patient acuity and in accordance with CDC recommendations. “
Although the nursing staff were upset for weeks due to the lack of N95 masks, Gulick and Cline say that two factors pushed the staff to the brink.
On April 6, Angela Gatdula, nurse from PSJHC Covid, tested positive for the virus. She told CNN in the weeks before her coronavirus infection that she was treating patients with coronavirus while wearing a surgical mask.
AIdem says that each time a hospital worker contracts a contagious disease, the hospital investigates according to state law. She did not know if this investigation had started or whether Gatdula had contracted the coronavirus.
The next morning, news spread in the hospital that Gatdula had tested positive. Cline and Gulick told CNN that they had spoken to some doctors at the hospital who were surprised that the nurses still did not have masks.
Nurses stay suspended even after policy change
Gulick said that he and other protest nurses were then called, one by one, to a meeting room with hospital administrators.
In this room, the administrators read a pre-written script, saying that their refusal to treat patients was neglect and neglect, said Gulick. If they refuse, Gulick and Cline said, the hospital has threatened to report the nurses to the California Board of Registered Nursing.
Aidem declined to comment on this, citing PSJHC’s policy of not commenting on personnel issues to protect the privacy of their employees
“We all told them, ‘No, we don’t refuse the mission, but we refuse to care for these patients without being offered the minimal protection of the N95 mask,'” said Gulick. “And they said, ‘We can’t provide this to you.’ “
After asking the nurses three times to treat the patients, the hospital administrators told Gulick that he had been suspended and had to leave the building, said Gulick.
Gulick says he called the California’s Board of Registered Nursing and asked if a complaint had been made against him. He was told that no complaints had yet been filed and he was given the opportunity to file a complaint against PSJHC, which he did.
The CBRN confirmed to CNN that a complaint had been made against a PSJHC nurse, but refused to identify the nurse or the subject of the complaint, saying that the information about the complaint is confidential. The agency did not say whether a nurse had filed a complaint against PSJHC.
” The [CBRN] investigate this complaint, “California Cave Department of Consumer Affairs Michelle Cave public information office. It is important to remember that the board has no jurisdiction over employment. If a patient’s abandonment is reported, the commission will investigate these complaints and, depending on the findings, may take disciplinary action against the license. ”
According to the CBRN, for a patient abandonment to occur, a nurse must accept a patient assignment and then cut it without giving reasonable notice to the appropriate supervisor or patient so that “arrangements” can be made.
The nurses, some of whom have again met with human resources at the hospital, remain suspended despite the hospital’s policy change regarding N95 masks.
“As nurses with scientific practice, we know what protections are needed to stop the transmission of this disease and to allow us to safely provide the care our patients need,” Bonnie Castillo, nurse and executive director of California Nurses and National Nurses United, told CNN in a statement.
“It is unacceptable that these brave nurses who defend themselves have been suspended and we fully support them when they demand what they need to do their jobs safely. We demand that Saint John’s immediately reinstate them without further disciplinary action. ”
During their suspension, some hospital nurses held demonstrations outside the PSJHC and other nearby hospitals. The latest protest took place at 7 a.m. on Friday, coinciding with the change of hospital shift.