Medical Professionals Online

RNs: Strike Plan Forces Overdue Release Of Masks, Hospitals Have No More Excuses To Improve H1N1 Standards

June 01, 2017

This week's announcement of a major nurses strike over inadequate hospital protections for the H1N1 pandemic has prompted California officials to finally release millions of safety masks it had been holding, and removes one more excuse for hospitals in meeting the highest public safety protections, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) said today.

Earlier today Gov. Schwarzenegger made what CNA/NNOC executive director Rose Ann DeMoro called "a long overdue" decision to release half of the state's huge stockpile of 51 million N95 masks. In a state where more than 3,000 people have been hospitalized, over 200 have died, including one nurse, and many health workers infected, "the first question is, what took them so long?" DeMoro asked.

"Our public officials should not need to wait until exasperated nurses are prepared to strike, and hospitals, many of which have stalled on providing the masks, have no more excuses for guaranteeing they are fully available to everyone."

Proper, fit-tested, disposable N95 masks are one important, but not the only, component of a strong safety net, DeMoro said. "Our hospitals must be healing centers for containing the pandemic, not incubators accelerating its spread," she said. "For months nurses have sounded the alarm about big gaps in safety measures in our hospitals, which has contributed to the unnecessary exposure and infection of nurses and patients."

That also includes proper isolation of patients who enter the hospitals with swine flu symptoms, uniform procedures and training for hospital staff, and policies that do not punish nurses and other employees who become sick.

"Yet despite our repeated warnings, and even though more than 3,000 Californians have been hospitalized with H1N1, and over 200 have died, including a nurse, too many hospitals have failed to act or been slow to respond, and problems remain widespread."

In August, CNA/NNOC conducted a national survey of 190 hospitals, and found that at more than one-fourth, nurses reported insufficient isolation of patients with H1N1 symptoms, at 15 percent of the hospitals nurses did not have access to the N95 masks, and at 18 percent nurses had already been infected.

CNA/NNOC wants hospitals to adopt all Centers for Disease Control and Cal-OSHA guidelines and make them enforceable through CNA/NNOC contract provisions assuring the highest safety measures are adopted, are uniform, and are consistently applied throughout the systems.

As many as 16,000 RNs from three large Catholic hospital chains in California and Nevada are set to participate in the one-day strike and picket scheduled Oct. 30.

California Nurses Association