The head of the statewide nurses union said Friday there remain dangerous concerns for nurses and frontline health workers regarding guideline usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to treat the staggering number of patients afflicted with the deadly coronavirus.
Pat Kane, a registered nurse and executive director of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) said despite there reportedly being plenty of N95 protective face masks, several hospitals are still requiring doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to reuse the same masks sometimes for days.
“Some hospitals are following the CDC [National Center for Disease Control] crisis capacity guidelines, which even according to the CDC website says these measures are not consistent with the standard of U.S. care, ” Kane told Kings County Politics. “You have to talk about workers going home to families and certainly exposing and possibly infecting family members. The reuse of equipment is not a way to flatten the curve.”
Kane’s comments came as the city remains on virtual lockdown in trying to flatten the rising curve of last of the contagious and deadly flu. As of last night, there have been 776 deaths citywide from the infection and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is about 35,500.
At the same time, White House officials said an aircraft from Shanghai landed yesterday at Kennedy Airport – the first of roughly 20 such flights – carrying 130,000 N-95 masks, nearly 1.8 million surgical masks and gowns, more than 10 million gloves and more than 70,000 thermometers to be distributed to areas of the country as they are needed.
But Kane explained that in spite of this reported PPE equipment that local hospitals reportedly have access to, some of these medical institutions continue to follow the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) most stringent of three listed guidelines for PPE utilization when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes conventional capacity, contingency capacity and crisis capacity – with the latter being “not commensurate with U.S. standards of care.”
“The government has done a lot of work in trying to get stuff we need but what happened is because the rollback guidelines were put in place, supplies come in and each individual institution decides which guidelines to follow,” she said.
Kane said some hospitals get supplies and still make nurses and other health care workers use the same N95 mask for as many as five days. “This is not looking to point blame, but we all have to speak the same language if you say you have enough and nurses are still told to use the same mask for five days,” she said.
Kane said there were also issues regarding uniform testing of nurses and when they should or should not go home if they are exposed to the virus. Nurses are reporting that when they come down with symptoms they are sometimes not being tested and these guidelines change every day, she said.
The state says healthcare workers should be tested and issues quarantine guidelines, but the CDC also rolled that back creating high-risk low-risk thresholds. It a worker is exposed and not symptomatic they wear a mask at all times and come to work. Now we are seeing they are sent home if they have a fever. If they have symptoms but no fever they still have to work.
As of this post, Kane said one nurse has died form COVID-19 related illness and a number of nurses have been in and out of intensive care with some remaining there.
Other challenges the nurses are facing is the need for additional staff and retraining for some nurses, who need to be switched from some departments such as surgery, for example, and be redeployed in an area to work with ventilator patients, she said.