Nurses Call on U.S. Hospitals to Better Prepare for Ebola
By Chuck Idelson
National Nurses United
Following reports that a Dallas hospital failed to hospitalize a patient infected with the Ebola virus and failed to properly communicate essential information to caregivers about his health status, National Nurses United is stepping up the call on U.S. hospitals to immediately upgrade emergency preparations for Ebola in the U.S.
“At a rally of 1,000 nurses last week in Las Vegas, we warned that it was just a matter of time in an interconnected world that we would see Ebola in the U.S. Now, everyone should recognize that Texas is not an island either, and as we’ve heard from nurses across the U.S., hospitals here are not ready to confront this deadly disease,” said NNU executive director RoseAnn DeMoro.
As one step, NNU members from the California Nurses Association Wednesday met with officials of Kaiser Permanente, the largest hospital chain in California, proposing Kaiser immediately upgrade its pandemic disease preparedness, including planning, communications, hands on training and availability of proper protective equipment, including Hazmat suits, the most effective protective gear.
Kaiser said that Hazmat suits are not needed, even though nurses, doctors and other health workers have been infected and died in what the World Health Organization calls “unprecedented” numbers in West Africa.
Kaiser also insists its hospitals are prepared, despite an experience at a Kaiser hospital in Sacramento in August demonstrating the scope of the problem when a patient who it was feared had been exposed to Ebola came to the hospital.
No information was given to staff until after the potential exposure was reported by local media, even though the patient had already been in the hospital for two days and had come in contact with many RNs and other staff. Outraged RNs then marched on hospital officials protesting the mishandling of the situation and demanding proper education, training, and equipment for frontline nurses.
The Sacramento example, and Kaiser’s response this week “is very alarming to frontline nurses,” said CNA co-president Zenei Cortez, a Kaiser RN. “Whatever Kaiser is doing, their plans have never included any frontline nurses who would be the first ones to come into contact with patients exposed to any pandemic disease. It shows a total disregard for protecting patients, staff, and the wider public,” said Cortez.
Preliminary results of an NNU survey released this week showed Kaiser is hardly unique. The survey of hundreds of nurses in more than 200 hospitals in 25 states has found that more than 60 percent say their hospital is not prepared for the Ebola virus. More than 80 percent say their hospital has not communicated to them any policy regarding potential admission of patients infected by Ebola. Another 30 percent say their hospital has insufficient supplies of eye protection and fluid resistant gowns.
The Dallas case, where the infected patient was sent home after arriving at the hospital, hardly provides any reassurance, said NNU today.
Media reports have indicated that the Dallas patient’s exposure was not properly communicated to hospital staff. Hospital officials reportedly told the media they had done one drill, “but nurses and other hospital staff work around the clock. One drill is hardly sufficient,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, director of NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network which is coordinating NNU’s Ebola response.
NNU is calling for all U.S. hospitals to immediately implement a full emergency preparedness plan for Ebola, or other disease outbreaks. That includes:
- Full training of hospital personnel along with proper protocols and training materials for responding to outbreaks
- Adequate supplies of Hazmat suits and other personal protective equipment
- Properly equipped isolation rooms to assure patient, visitor and staff safety
- Sufficient staffing to supplement nurses and other health workers who need to care for patients in isolation.
NNU is also calling for significant increases in provision of aid, financial, personnel, and protective equipment, from the U.S., other governments, and private corporate interests to the nations in West Africa directly affected to contain and stop the spread of Ebola.
Chuch Idelson is the Communications Director for the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee.