CANTON, Mass., May 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of its latest letter to Gov. Charlie Baker about the pandemic, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is calling for an advisory group of nurses and healthcare professionals on the frontlines of COVID-19 to provide insight and recommendations on how best to organize patient care across the state as healthcare facilities seek to resume normal operations and prepare to confront a potential second wave of infections.
"Nurses and healthcare professionals who have spent months in the trenches of this pandemic caring for COVID-19 patients are the most critical voices as we decide how to safely operate healthcare facilities," said RN and MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams. "As the Governor stated in his press conference on Monday regarding the reopening of hospitals for elective procedures, the Commissioner needs to work with providers to ensure a safe process as we move into the next phase of our pandemic response."
"And that means frontline providers, including registered nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians and other healthcare workers who have experience caring for these patients guiding this process," Kelly-Williams said. "We have seen too many bad decisions by hospital administrators that have hurt our ability to safely care for patients and protect frontline staff. That is why we are urging the Commissioner to take immediate steps to form an advisory group that gives equal voice to caregivers in developing a safe and effective process for resuming normal health care activities."
"We have seen health systems in this state close ICUs for entire communities and withhold or provide substandard PPE that has increased the spread of the virus," Kelly-Williams said. "We recently saw hospitals like Cape Cod Hospital furlough hundreds of staff. Staff suffer widespread exposure to the virus while hospitals pursue opening for elective procedures with no guidance or protocols to ensure patient safety. Other hospitals open up units with the co-mingling of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
"Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have advocated for rigorous standards to protect the safety of patients and the health of frontline staff. Far too many of these standards have been ignored or undermined by hospital administrators who do not have cohesive plans of their own, and who are making decisions based on revenue and profits rather than best practices.
"Our proposed standards, and the voices of caregivers at the bedside, deserve better. Our patients deserve better. Our whole society, relying on the healthcare system to pull us out of this pandemic, deserves better. It is imperative that those on the front lines be part of decisions that will shape the future of healthcare and all aspects of how we live and work."
1. Appropriate patient admission to hospitals The plan to resume normal operations at healthcare facilities should be based on the practices that ensure the most favorable outcome for patients. We are now several months into this crisis. We should be looking to glean best practices from available data, including setting of care. Given the continued limitations of readily available Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), as well as certain medications, treatment expertise and staff, we urge the state to consider criteria by which COVID-19 patients are transferred to facilities with the most favorable outcome opportunity.
2. Maintain overflow facilities In order to accommodate census fluctuations between COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, the state must keep regionally based state-run overflow facilities open and staffed to address mini surges. In these instances, institutions will need to discharge lower acuity level COVID-19 patients to these state-run facilities to ensure they do not break the necessary hospital zoning criteria.
3. Pass occupational presumption legislation Massachusetts is third in the nation for infection rates for COVID-19. Local media reports more than 2,200 healthcare workers have been infected in Massachusetts and this does not include several facilities in which these numbers are unknown. Several states have already acted to protect these workers by passing legislation or issuing executive orders. Now Massachusetts must follow suit. Several bills have been filed and we implore your administration to provide leadership in getting this passed as you did with the liability legislation.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.