Largest hospital and clinic unions call for highest possible level of personal protection for caregivers during COVID-19 outbreak
SEATTLE (March 11, 2020) — The following is a joint statement released Tuesday by the Washington State Nurses Association, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and UFCW 21 on personal protections for healthcare workers:
The CDC has announced new interim recommendations on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for situations where adequate supplies are unavailable. The CDC recommendations state that face masks are an acceptable alternative when the supply chain of respirators cannot meet the demand. We maintain our position that N‑95 respirators are the gold standard and are necessary protection for our nurses and healthcare workers caring for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients, and the CDC agrees that when the supply chain is restored, providers should return to the use of N95s. The CDC states that “This interim guidance has been updated based on currently available information about COVID-19 and the current situation in the United States, which includes reports of cases of community transmission, infections identified in healthcare personnel (HCP), and shortages of facemasks, N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs) (commonly known as N95 respirators), and gowns.”
The supply shortage must continue to be addressed in the most aggressive way possible. We continue to call on the CDC to proactively and effectively target the supply of respirators and use other controls to reduce the risk of infection in health care workers, knowing that our professionals are at the highest risk of infection. The federal government should do all in its power to increase the supply of N‑95 respirators and other PPE, which includes releasing the national stockpile and targeting supplies to areas where the outbreak has already occurred; incentivizing U.S.-based companies to produce more N‑95s; and promoting the use of powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) in health care settings.
We additionally call on hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities to provide personal protective equipment in an equitable manner. All health care workers — providers, nurses, technical staff and service workers including environmental services janitorial staff — who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19 must be afforded the same standard of PPE. Furthermore, many health care workers speak English as a second language. Instruction in the use of PPE and in safe work practices in environments where COVID-19 may be present must be provided in multiple languages and in clear, uncomplicated phrasing in order to increase access to essential information.
As nurses and health care workers, we care deeply for our patients and take pride in the roles we play on the front lines of patient care, particularly during a community health crisis like the one presented by COVID-19. We are committed to the health of our patients and our communities. We will continue to work closely with health care employers and with federal and local public health agencies to ensure all caregivers have access to the highest level of PPE available so we can continue to provide the high-quality health care our communities require.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is a union of nurses and healthcare workers with over 30,000 caregivers throughout hospitals, clinics, mental health, skilled home health and hospice programs in Washington state and Montana. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW’s mission is to advocate for quality care and good jobs for all.
WSNA is the leading voice and advocate for nurses in Washington state, providing representation, education and resources that allow nurses to reach their full professional potential and focus on caring for patients. WSNA represents more than 17,000 registered nurses for collective bargaining who provide care in hospitals, clinics, schools and community and public health settings across the state.
UFCW 21 is working to build a powerful union that fights for economic, political and social justice in our workplaces and our communities. We represent over 45,000 workers in retail, grocery stores, health care, and other industries in Washington state.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 11, 2020) — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement Tuesday on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weakening its written guidance protections for health care workers during the COVID-19 outbreak:
The CDC weakening its protection guidelines in the face of a pandemic is unconscionable. America’s health care workers have shown true courage by tirelessly working the frontlines during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. These workers are among the most at risk of contracting the virus and if they are not properly protected, the effects could be devastating.
A recent nationwide survey from National Nurses United (NNU) of registered nurses showed that the vast majority of United States hospitals and health care facilities are vastly unprepared to handle and contain cases of COVID-19. The government needs to do its job and strengthen its recommendations and hold employers accountable for implementing those protections. Cases of COVID-19 in America are already rapidly multiplying, and if our country is not protecting its health care workers, things will only get worse.