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'Can't expect nurses to be miracle workers': Mask, equipment shortages push nurses to brink


VIA USA TODAY 
By Ken Alltucker
APRIL 11, 2020

A week after recovering from a fever, nurse Maria Gray was given a surgical mask and assigned to Research Medical Center’s ward of patients suspected of having the virus that causes COVID-19.


For two consecutive shifts, she asked hospital nurse managers for an N95 respirator mask that would offer more protection. On both shifts, supervisors denied her request and reassigned her to a different hospital floor.


On the third day, the travel nurse learned her contract to work at the Kansas City, Missouri, hospital had been terminated. The staffing agency that employed her explained Gray had been “making demands that the facility believed were not in line with current policies,” according to an email Gray provided to USA TODAY.


As the worst viral outbreak in a century has infected a half-million and killed more than 18,000 Americans as of Saturday, nurses on the front lines of the nation's hospitals have reached a breaking point.



They are challenging hospital administrators over staffing concerns and the availability of equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves to protect them and their patients. While hospitals seek to stretch limited supplies by requiring nurses and health workers reuse masks and gowns usually discarded after a single use, nurse unions say such stopgap measures put health care workers and patients at risk.


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Research Medical Center said Gray received protective gear recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for working a unit of suspected COVID-19 patients. When she refused her assigned unit, the hospital moved her to another unit for shifts on consecutive days. 


By the third shift, "other units were adequately staffed without the need for contract nurses.  As such, there was no need to continue her contract and it was terminated in accordance with its terms," the hospital said in a statement. 


At least 15 nurses across the country have died from COVID-19, according to National Nurses United, the nation's largest registered nurses union.


Disagreements over equipment and staffing are playing out in hospitals across America, and nurses unions have organized protests from New York to the San Francisco Bay Area. 


At Detroit Medical Center's DeSinai-Grace hospital, emergency room nurses last Sunday staged a sit-in and demanded more help at a facility overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. A nurse recovering from pneumonia brought an N95 mask and pair of gloves to work for protection, but a supervisor at the Voorhees, New Jersey hospital told her to remove the protective equipment or go home. A nurse at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey was suspended after she purchased masks, suits and other protective gear for fellow nurses with GoFundMe donations, ProPublica reported. 


Hospitals acknowledge that they are struggling to obtain protective gear. Hospitals in some cities also face a shortage of intensive care units, ventilators and specialists to treat COVID-19 patients.  Continue reading at USA TODAY...


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