Nurses Suspended After Mask Demand

They refused to care for COVID-19 patients without N95 masks
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 16, 2020 3:50 AM CDT
Nurses Suspended After Mask Demand
In this image provided by Lizabeth Baker Wade, nurses at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., on April 10, 2020, raise their fists in solidarity after telling managers they can't care for COVID-19 patients without N95 respirator masks to protect themselves.   (Lizabeth Baker Wade via AP)

At Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., nurse Mike Gulick and his colleagues worried that caring for infected patients without first being able to don an N95 respirator mask was risky. But administrators at his hospital said they weren’t necessary and didn’t provide them, he said. Then, last week, a nurse on Gulick’s ward tested positive for the coronavirus. The next day doctors doing rounds on their ward asked the nurses why they weren’t wearing N95 masks, Gulick said, and told them they should have better protection. For Gulick, that was it. He and a handful of nurses told their managers they wouldn’t enter COVID-19 patient rooms without N95 masks. The hospital suspended them, according to the National Nurses Union.

Ten nurses are now being paid but not allowed to return to work pending an investigation from human resources, the union said. They are among hundreds of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers across the country who say they’ve been asked to work without adequate protection, the AP reports. Some have taken part in protests or lodged formal complaints. Others are buying—or even making—their own supplies. Saint John’s said in a statement that as of Tuesday it is providing N95 masks to all nurses caring for COVID-19 patients and those awaiting test results. The statement said the hospital had increased its supply and was disinfecting masks daily. "It’s no secret there is a national shortage,” said the statement. The hospital would not comment on the suspended nurses.

(More coronavirus stories.)

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