If you're a doctor, nurse or other medical worker, you are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, dealing with sick patients and putting yourself at risk every day of becoming infected yourself. And because you're on the front lines, you're likely expecting your employer to provide you with the proper protection to ensure that you don't become infected, right?
Medical workers say one of the things that is helpful to them are N95 masks. These masks filter out 95% of airborne particles, offering good protection (although not foolproof protection) against Covid-19. Well, ten nurses at Santa Monica's Providence Saint John's Health Center say their hospital refused to provide them with N95 masks, so they told administrators that they refused to care for Covid-19 infected patients until they had them.
The hospital turned around and said 'OK, then....you're suspended,' and sent the nurses home.
Mike Gulick is one of the suspended nurses. He told NBC4 that hospital administrators told nurses on his ward that surgical masks were enough protection for them, so they didn't need the N95 masks. But then, a nurse on staff tested postive for coronavirus, and doctors making their rounds started telling them that they should have better protection, including N95 masks.
The Nurses Union says the ten suspended nurses are not allowed to return to work until an investigation is complete.
The hospital won't comment about the suspensions, but did say in a statement that there is a shortage of N95 masks, they are disinfecting masks daily, they are working to increase their supply and that they provide N95 masks to ALL nurses caring for Covid-19 patients.
The nurses in Santa Monica are far from the only ones dealing with this problem. We've seen first hand that personal protective equipment is in short supply for these workers across the country, to the point that some have opted to make their own protective equipment so they can care for Covid-19 patients safely.
Despite those precautions, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 9,200 health care workers have been infected with the virus.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has reported receiving hundreds of complaints from health care workers who say their employers are telling them they don't need the N95 masks to be protected. In a few cases, they're being told they don't need masks at all. As a result, nurses and other medical workers across the country are staging demonstrations demanding they be provided the proper protection so they can continue to care for Covid-19 infected patients.