KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The largest labor union for nurses says health care workers at HCA Midwest Health hospitals don’t have the equipment they need to safely handle coronavirus.
Those hospitals include Research and Menorah medical centers in Kansas City and Overland Park, respectively, among others.
HCA Midwest denies those allegations.
Representatives with National Nurses United said they started making recommendations back in January on how to prepare for COVID-19.
Three months later, they said they don’t feel safe, but HCA Midwest insists in many cases it’s “exceeding CDC guidelines.”
Union representatives were outside Research Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon, surveying registered nurses as they reported to work.
The union says an overwhelming number of them checked a poster board indicated coronavirus patients aren’t being properly isolated, nurses aren’t being notified of cases, there’s not adequate testing or staffing and, most troubling, there’s not enough personal protective equipment.
“I don’t feel safe, and I think a lot of other nurses feel that way as well,” Summer Baker said.
The 13-year registered nurse, who’s also a representative for the union, said nurses are having to repurpose N95 masks multiple times a day from staff to staff.
The same goes for isolation gowns and face shields.
Baker said nurses are being told to wipe them down with disinfectant, but they argue the practice isn’t safe.
“I don’t feel safe. I’m scared I’m going to bring it home to my child, to my husband. I’m going to transfer it patient to patient,” Baker said. “If the idea is that you’re the most contagious, if all the research is shown that you’re most contagious when you’re the sickest when you’re in the hospital, we need to be protecting ourselves in the hospital.”
In a statement to FOX4, HCA Midwest Health said it started planning for this emergency two months ago, calling the accusations made by the nurses union “irresponsible.”
The health system pointed out the following measures it’s taken in response to the pandemic:
HCA said it was one of the first hospitals to restrict visitors early on. The company offers pandemic pay with 100% of pay to any nurse who is quarantined per CDC guidelines.
And just this week, HCA said it adopted new universal masking guidelines to ensure nurses and workers are protected.
“I don’t want to feel that responsibility that I somehow made my child worse or made someone in the community worse,” Baker said.
The union said personal protective equipment for COVID-19, at minimum, should include fitted N95 masks for each nurse, isolation gowns, eye protection and gloves.
HCA Midwest Health said it has “adequate supply” of those items at this time.
Nurses said if they aren’t protected, neither are the patients or community.
HCA said ensuring their nurses have the equipment they need is not a challenge that’s unique to any region. It’s something we’re seeing at hospitals across the country.