SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Protests were planned across California Friday to show solidarity after ten registered nurses at Providence St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica were reportedly suspended after refusing to treat COVID-19 patients without proper personal protective equipment (PPE).
One of the suspended Santa Monica nurses spoke to FOX 11.
“We simply asked for N95 respirator but everyone else in the hospital [are using them] …but they don’t allow them on our floor,” said Jack Kline, R.N.
Kline said the floor he had been working on was strictly used for treating COVID-19 patients and that the nurses were not given N95 masks.
“They said 'just use a surgical mask.' Now, they said we can have an N95 but they’re going to sterilize a mask, but we don’t think that’s safe. After I wear a mask for 12 and a half hours, it’s all bent up…the integrity of it has been affected. And I don’t think you can get a good seal on it by the second day,” Kline said.
Providence St. John’s officials issued the following statement Friday morning:
“We value our nurses, we respect the unions, but we don’t respect the misinformation that is being communicated.
• Every one of our nurses caring for COVID-19 positive patients and patients under investigation (PUIs), was provided appropriate PPE per CDC, WHO and state guidelines. These same guidelines are followed by most hospitals across the United States.
• Ten of our more than our 700 nurses are on PAID administrative leave.
•There is a national shortage of PPE, including N95 masks. We do not manufacture these, and are at the mercy of the supply chain to increase our supplies.
•We are pleased that within the last week we received an increase in inventory and the FDA granted authorization to reprocess N95 masks, enabling us to provide them to all caregivers treating COVID-19 patients. (See attached press release.)
•We are proud of the work all our nurses have been performing during these unprecedented times and honor them for their many success stories.
•We also are proud that Saint John’s Health Center is one of only a few hospitals in the United States to lead three world-class clinical trials with two of the most promising approaches to treating COVID-19 patients.
Under our policy to protect our employees’ privacy, we don’t comment on personnel issues."
On Thursday night, UCLA Medical Center nurses held a drive-thru protest demanding new N95 masks.
The UCLA nurses say they are being forced to reuse masks hospital officials claim are being disinfected. The nurses say they don’t feel confident about reusing masks that have already been used.
“We want evidence that the so-called sterilization method that they’re using for our N95 masks actually work. We want to know that when we put on masks, we don’t cross-contaminate and expose ourselves and patients to COVID-19,” Emergency Room Nurse, Elizabeth Davis said.
Officials at UCLA Health said more than 800 N95 masks have been disinfected properly for limited reuse.
Kline said approximately ten nurses at St. John's have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Santa Monica hospital. He added that they were originally on paid leave, but the hospital claims the nurses contracted the virus in the community and outside the hospital. Therefore, they will not qualify for workman’s compensation.
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More than two dozen nurses have died from the coronavirus across the nation and over 200 have tested positive, according to National Nurses United.