GREENFIELD, Mass. and WESTFIELD, Mass., April 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The registered nurses of Baystate Franklin Medical Center and Baystate Noble Hospital, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, are calling on Baystate Health to commit to universal N95 masking for frontline nurses and healthcare workers and a halt to any hospital closures during the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis.
Baystate Franklin and Baystate Noble nurses are calling for:
- Universal N95 Precautions. In recognition of the highly contagious nature of the virus and the likelihood of asymptomatic exposure, all frontline staff should be provided with N95 masks, eye protection, hospital issued scrubs and gowns. Baystate administration has not agreed to this safety standard.
- Moratorium on Closures. In recognition of the public health crisis caused by COVID-19, Baystate Health should implement an immediate moratorium on staff reductions and unit closures. MNA nurses were notified last week that Baystate administration has rejected this proposal.
Robin Tibbetts and Dennise Colson are nurses at Baystate Franklin and Baystate Noble who have been quarantined for exposure to COVID-19. Neither nurse was working in a designated COVID-19 hospital area when they were exposed, supporting the nurses' call for universal N95 mask protections.
"Every nurse and healthcare worker caring for patients needs the strongest COVID-19 protection," said Tibbets, a float nurse at BFMC. "I was exposed to the virus in a unit where the hospital had not positively identified or suspected that a patient had COVID-19. Now I cannot be at the bedside caring for patients during this pandemic. My experience shows that anyone can be infected without symptoms and we need to properly protect our frontline nurses so we can fight this outbreak."
"The day I was exposed to COVID-19, I was floated around the hospital and within the emergency department, from areas that were virus hotspots to places where no patients were known to be infected," said Colson, a surgical nurse at Baystate Noble. "I am now quarantined and unable to care for patients because Baystate does not have a universal N95 mask protection policy. We must act now to protect our caregivers to limit the spread of this virus."
In a March 31 letter to Baystate Health CEO Dr. Mark Keroack, the elected RN leaders at Baystate Franklin and Noble wrote, "We are painfully aware of the need to conserve PPE and work to find additional supplies. However, we cannot allow you to compromise the health and safety of our frontline caregivers. Too many of us are currently out of work, sick and/or quarantined due to inadequate PPE provided by Baystate Health. We cannot afford the loss of more frontline healthcare workers as we prepare for a possible 'surge' of patients. That is why we are urging you to immediately adopt universal precautions and other steps to protect our healthcare workforce and infrastructure."
The letter continued regarding closures, "Our membership and our communities are currently feeling the effects of Baystate's 2019 layoffs, unit closures/reductions and threatened unit closures at Franklin, Noble and Wing. Our frontline nurses and other coworkers are doing everything to fill in the void, but the fact remains that Baystate's cutbacks have damaged our community hospitals' capacity to provide necessary care."
For a copy of the March 31 letter to Dr. Keroack, please email [email protected].
Background on Asymptomatic Spread of COVID-19
Infectious disease experts studying COVID-19 have detailed how infected people can be asymptomatic for periods of time and be able to spread the virus to others, supporting the need for universal N95 precautions for frontline healthcare workers.
- A study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases shows more than 10% of patients become infected from somebody who has the virus but does not yet have symptoms.
- Japanese researchers looked at 634 passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. They found that 17.9% of these passengers were asymptomatic.
- Dr. William Hillmann, associate inpatient physician director at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Guardian, "A significant proportion of people who are totally asymptomatic are contagious for some portion of time. We just don't know [for how long] at this point, because we don't have the kind of testing available to screen for asymptomatic infections."
- A study of COVID-19 cases in China in the New England Journal of Medicine found that even among patients who required hospital admission for treatment of COVID-19, fewer than half (44%) had fevers at the time of presentation.
- In a research letter published March 27 in American Thoracic Society, researchers found that half of the patients they treated for mild COVID-19 infection still had coronavirus for up to eight days after symptoms disappeared.
Massachusetts Nurses Association PPE Recommendations
Despite the CDC's weakening of its PPE guidelines during the outbreak, the MNA maintains that healthcare workers should be provided the PPE under previous CDC guidelines and World Health Organization standards. The MNA also calls for everyone frontline healthcare worker to be able to use an N95 mask to limit spread within their facility and flatten the curve in their communities.
"We reiterate in the strongest possible way that we should assume all patients are COVID-19 positive," RN and MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams wrote in her March 31, 2020 letter to Gov. Charlie Baker. "The answer is not to save for the coming crises – the crisis is here. We must utilize all available PPE to avoid making the crisis worse. Our efforts need to be focused on maintaining the best standard possible with what is available in order to avoid spread among patients and hospital staff."
Read MNA letters to the governor, PPE explanation videos, position statements and more information at www.massnurses.org/COVID-19.
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.
SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association