FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Rick Fuentes
(St. Paul) – March 18, 2020 – Minnesota Nurses are calling on Minnesota Hospital Association member hospitals and Mayo Clinic Health System to join MNA in an emergency meeting to reach an agreement to resolve the outstanding concerns and problems, which nurses raised, that create barriers to appropriate levels of preparedness to adequately deal with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Nurses brought their concerns public at a press conference at the Minnesota Nurses Association offices today.
“Minnesota Nurses from many different hospitals believe their respective hospitals are unprepared and unequipped to protect nurses and other healthcare workers from a worsening situation of infectious COVID-19 patients,” said Mary C. Turner, president of MNA and an intensive care nurse. “Nurses are on the frontlines of COVID-19 response. They regularly come into contact with suspected contagious patients and those who can easily become infected.”
“We’re getting very confusing messages on what protection we’re supposed to be using what protection with what patient,” said Brittany Lavaccari, a Registered Nurse at United Hospital in St. Paul. “We believe as nurses that we use the precautionary principle. That we not wait until we know something is harmful before we take precautions,” Lavaccari said.
“They stopped fitting us for these N95 masks. There was a cry for help at that point way before COVID-19 was a thing,” said Kelly Anaas, a Registered Nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. “We’ve been passing helmets between staff members to draw blood and with technicians to do EKGs and ultrasounds. None of these staff members had been refit for the N95 mask.”
MNA has also requested preparedness plans and quantities of proper equipment, including N95 masks, from Minnesota hospitals through the labor-management Request for Information process called RFI. The great majority of facilities have not provided information. Nurses are concerned about the responses because they don’t know if hospitals don’t have plans or don’t want to admit their level of preparedness.
“In ICU we see the people coding. We see the people on ventilators. There’s lots of unanswered questions, and we’re looking to our administration to give us those answers,” said Kelly Allen, a Registered Nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul. “We need to be better prepared and have a plan,” Allen said.
All nurses who experience a COVID-19 related incident are encouraged to report it on this COVID-19 Incident Reporting Form. MNA will disclose trends in incidents as they’re being analyzed on this same page for healthcare workers and the public to follow.
“We’re demanding that this meeting happen in the next 5 days. It is past time to address concerns about adequate protection against the virus’ spread, hospital’s response plans, real plans to adequately staff hospitals, to provide needed education to staff, and to be transparent in communication of plans for the public and healthcare workers who provide needed care,” Turner said. “We cannot afford to wait any longer to develop real solutions. We ask all elected officials, patients and community members to partner with us in demanding hospitals meet with nurses to address these dangerous conditions.”
Note: MNA’s letter to hospitals can be found here: https://mnnurses.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/031820-MHA-Mayo-Letter.pdf