Five years ago, when the H1N1 influenza pandemic was big news, we saw a number of hospitals charged with taking shortcuts in protecting their staff by issuing surgical masks instead of N95 respirators, despite CDC recommendations to the contrary (see Nurses Protest Lack Of PPE’s).
While the H1N1 virus proved to be less deadly than first anticipated, this led to great debate over whether Healthcare Workers (HCWs) would report to work during a particularly virulent pandemic.
The answer was – for many – only as long as adequate protective gear was available (see Study: Willingness Of HCWs To Work In A Pandemic). Even before the arrival of H1N1, some doctors expressed doubts they would continue to see patients in a severe pandemic (see Will GP's Work In A Pandemic?).
While Ebola is far from becoming a pandemic, in hospitals which are required to care for Ebola cases, safety concerns still run high among the staff. Yesterday nurses from Texas Health Presbyterian hospital released a statement expressing concern over the safety protocols employed during the treatment of their index case.
A few media stories from overnight include:
Similar reports have come from Spain, where a nurse in Madrid was infected last week (see WSJ Workers at Madrid Hospital Say Spain Was Ill-Prepared for Ebola). All of which I’m sure will be heavily discussed later today when:
National Nurses United Press Release, 10/14/14
National Nurses United, which has been hearing concerns from registered nurses across the U.S. about who believe their hospitals are not properly prepared for the deadly Ebola virus, will hold a national conference call for RNs Wednesday. The call is at 3 p.m. EST, 12 noon PST.
The call comes as at least one nurse continues to be isolated in a Dallas hospital after having tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, and reports of other patients being tested with Ebola-like symptoms.
National Nurses United called for all hospitals to have in place the highest standard of optimal protections, including Hazmat suits, and hands-on training to protect all RNs, other hospital personnel to confront Ebola.
On the call, for which more than 4,000 RNs have signed up to call in with the opportunity to ask questions, discussion will include what their hospital is doing or not doing to prepare for Ebola to improve safety for patients, nurses and other hospital personnel, and the communities they serve.
The confidence (or lack, thereof) of nurses in their facility’s ability to deal with Ebola cases is illustrated by the results of a poll included in the above press release:
Current findings show:
- 85 percent say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for the nurses to interact and ask questions – a percentage that remains largely unchanged
- 40 percent say their hospital has insufficient current supplies of eye protection (face shields or side shields with goggles) for daily use on their unit; 38 percent say there are insufficient supplies of fluid resistant/impermeable gowns in their hospital – both numbers are increasing as more survey results come in
- 41 percent say their hospital does not have plans to equip isolation rooms with plastic covered mattresses and pillows and discard all linens after use; only 8 percent said they were aware their hospital does have such a plan in place
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, with the ability for nurses to interact and ask questions.
- Adequate supplies of Hazmat suits and other personal protective equipment.
- Properly equipped isolation rooms to assure patient, visitor, and staff safety.
- Proper procedures for disposal of medical waste and linens after use.
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.
I’ve heard similar feedback from others in the healthcare industry. Many hospitals have done little more than pin up posters on the wall, urging the staff to visit the CDC Ebola guidance site.
If, as officials have suggested, additional HCWs turn up infected in Dallas, this crisis of confidence among healthcare workers as to whether current infection control protocols are adequate to protect them will only increase.
As anyone who has ever worked in a hospitals already knows - while doctors may run hospitals – it is really the nurses and techs and ancillary staff that make the hospitals run.
And so if we expect them to keep them working in the face of potential Ebola risks, we must go the extra mile to make sure they are not only well-protected, but that they honestly believe their facility is fully committed to doing whatever it takes to protect them and their loved ones.
Simply saying you are isn’t enough, you have to show it.