NYSNA is calling on healthcare institutions across New York to join with us to ensure that every possible measure is taken to protect patients and caregivers from the spread of Ebola virus disease.
Our hearts are with the thousands of victims of Ebola in West Africa and the hundreds of healthcare workers who have lost their lives caring for Ebola patients in that region. Here in the United States, we need to ensure that frontline caregivers are protected, and that our healthcare institutions are prepared to safely care for Ebola patients.
NYSNA insists on the following from all healthcare facilities where we represent nurses:
- Safe levels of staffing to care for patients with infectious diseases.
- Optimal personal protective equipment that meet the highest standards used by the University of Nebraska, including full-body hazmat suits resistant to blood-borne pathogens and powered air purifying respirators.
- Continuous, interactive, hands-on training that is responsive to the changing nature of the disease.
- Optimal biohazard containment rooms for each suspected/diagnosed case of Ebola.
We call on facilities with or without union representation to adopt the same protocols to help prevent the spread of the disease. Further, NYSNA is requesting written protocols from healthcare facilities throughout New York State that include information on triage procedures, isolation facilities, personal protection equipment for staff, training, decontamination, and waste handling.
In New York City, our flagship public hospital, Bellevue Hospital Center, serves as a model for how hospitals should prepare for an infectious disease outbreak. NYSNA supports the designation of Bellevue Hospital Center as a center for treatment of Ebola in New York, as the facility has had an ongoing and consistent protocol, including hands-on training and drills for healthcare staff, and an optimal isolation unit to treat patients.
In the cases in which healthcare workers have been infected with Ebola in Spain and in Texas, these caregivers were blamed for falling ill, despite a complete lack of evidence or facts in any instance suggesting that they failed to follow the protocols given by their institutions. Hospital administrators and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention need to stop blaming frontline caregivers, and instead work to protect those who save lives every day.
We are prepared to work cooperatively with hospital administrators to implement safe protocols in every institution. NYSNA nurse leaders have strongly pushed for improvements, and in recent days we have received reports that some hospitals have stepped up preparation efforts – these efforts need to be duplicated at ALL New York hospitals.
The shortfalls in the response to the Ebola case in Texas are at least in part a result of our market-driven, uncoordinated healthcare system, which has been worsened by cuts to healthcare funding. Now more than ever, we need to prioritize a national public healthcare system with coordinated protocols throughout the country to protect patients and caregivers from epidemics of infectious disease. That should include increased funding to the Centers for Disease Control to provide for expert teams to visit hospitals to confirm that proper protocols are in place to prevent a repeat of the errors in Texas.
Hospital administrators and the Centers for Disease Control need to take the concerns of frontline nurses seriously and do everything possible to ensure that healthcare workers can care for every patient in an environment that is safe for both patients and caregivers.