NYSNA: COVID-19 Update: April 14

Our union continues to lead the charge to keep nurses and other healthcare professionals safe during the COVID-19 crisis.

We know that requires proper PPE — on every unit, every day, every night — and we won’t stop fighting until that is the standard across the state.

PROGRESS ON PPE

We’ve made some important progress I wanted to share with you.

On Sunday, Governor Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force gave new orders to healthcare facilities around the state: “When a direct care giver in a hospital asks for a new N95 mask, they will receive one at least once a day.”

Yesterday, the Greater New York Hospital Association and Healthcare Association of New York State notified their member hospitals of the state-issued mandate.

NYSNA is taking steps starting NOW to make sure this new order is enforced statewide, and we will continue to update the Governor on what you’re telling us about where PPE is needed most.

We will also continue to press Governor Cuomo to use the full force of his April 6 Executive Order — which he issued after weeks of pressure from NYSNA — to commandeer PPE stockpiles from construction, ship-building and other industries.

But in the end, we know NYSNA nurses must have a seat at the table to win this fight. Our solidarity and professional expertise are what New Yorkers are counting on to see us through this crisis.

NEW YORK CITY HEALTH + HOSPITALS UPDATE

We have been in almost daily contact with Dr. Katz and the leaders of New York City Health + Hospitals, as well as Mayor de Blasio’s office about the critical PPE shortages in New York City’s public hospitals.

Check out our April 11 H + H Bulletin to find out more about our organizing for more PPE.

To their credit, Mayor de Blasio and Dr. Katz have been responsive and frank with NYSNA about the situation in H + H. On Friday, April 3, for example, Mayor de Blasio and several NYSNA leaders hosted a town hall meeting attended by more than 1,000 RNs working in H + H.

Mayor de Blasio also spoke directly to these concerns during his press briefing on Sunday, acknowledging that New York City’s public hospitals have been operating under crisis capacity guidelines since the COVID-19 crisis started, and reporting that they still haven’t received enough PPE to return to conventional capacity guidelines.

We need more elected leaders willing to be straight with those of us on the frontlines.

And as a union, NSYNA will continue to demand more from public officials with the power to solve our PPE problems. This includes demanding President Trump unleash the Defense Production Act, and Governor Cuomo start commandeering PPE stockpiles from around the state.

CRISIS PAY, OSHA COMPLAINTS, PAID SICK LEAVE AND MORE

We are also negotiating bonuses and increased shift premiums with employers across the state in recognition of the incredible financial, emotional, and physical toll fighting COVID-19 has had on NYSNA members.

Members around the state have been filing OSHA and PESH complaints to document the dangers posed by inadequate PPE. OSHA has opened several investigations and we will continue to pursue every regulatory and legal avenue possible to ensure the safety of NYSNA members and our patients during the COVID crisis. If you have not done so already, contact your NYSNA Representative to find out how to file an OHSA/PESH complaint.

We are also continuing to press the New York State Department of Labor to ensure frontline healthcare workers are able to take advantage of the two weeks paid COVID leave provided by the state. Currently affected workers are required to get an isolation/quarantine order from their local department of health. Several of these local agencies, including the New York City Department of Health, are not currently issuing these orders.

IN MEMORIAM

I’m deeply saddened to report that we’ve lost several more NYSNA members to COVID-19 in the past week.

Yaw Asante was a registered nurse and NYSNA member at Lincoln Hospital. In addition to his service in New York City Health + Hospitals, Mr. Asante had previously worked as a nurse in Correctional Health Services. He is survived by his wife, Rosina Oppong, and three adult children, daughter Ophelia Gyametaah, and twin sons, Atta Borateng, Sr. and Atta Borateng, Jr.

Susan Sisgundo, a neuro ICU nurse and NYSNA member at Bellevue Hospital passed away on Wednesday, April 8. She was being treated at Queens Hospital. Prior to joining the New York City Health + Hospitals system, she previously worked at Flushing Hospital. A native of the Philippines, Susan was an active NYSNA member.

Aleyamma John, 65, a registered nurse at New York City Health + Hospitals/Queens Hospital Center and a 43-year member of NYSNA, passed away on Tuesday, April 7. She began her career at Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation, before moving on to the NYC Health + Hospitals system in 2003. We honor Aleyamma’s record of service to the patients of New York, and her career spanning record of NYSNA membership and participation.

Please visit our memorial page to read tributes to these and other fallen colleagues, and if you have pictures or remembrances you’d like to share, please send them to covidmemorial@nysna.org.

Last week, NYSNA’s Board of Directors established a Fund for Fallen Nurses. Through this fund, NYSNA will provide $1,000 to the families of NYSNA members taken by COVID-19. Please contact your NYSNA Representative for more information or to help connect us with surviving family members.

SCIENCE ON OUR SIDE: AIRBORNE TRANSMISSION POSSIBLE

Yesterday we also released a comprehensive review of the science behind COVID-19 transmission.

NYSNA members know this virus well. And the science now shows what we’ve already learned, that airborne transmission of COVID-19 is possible, so we need more protection.

I encourage NYNSA members to share this research with your colleagues, with hospital administrators, and with the public.

Our Health and Safety Department is hard at work producing other resources, including a rundown of the latest fad in many hospitals — the “cleaning” of N95 masks with unproven technologies like hydrogen peroxide vapor.

Stay tuned.

COVID ACTION TEAM TRAINING

We are launching a series of special workshops to support members who are stepping up to advocate for their colleagues and collectively address the critical issues facing frontline nurses, including PPE, testing, staffing, safe workplaces, and fair treatment.

If you want to get more involved, then these trainings are for you. Check out the schedule of upcoming trainings and register today!

MED-SURG AND ICU PRACTICE WORKSHOPS

As more and more staff nurses are being moved into Med-Surg and ICU areas, we want to help NYSNA members collectively advocate for more training and appropriate delegation of assignments, including delegating care to others, such as students, staff displaced from another institution, or volunteers.

This requires a rapid assessment of skills, both your own and those of others available to assist in patient care.

NYSNA’s Nursing Education and Practice Department is now offering you COVID-19 time-limited competency programs that address practice standards during a pandemic in medical/surgical and ICU specialty care units.

Join us in a series of zoom educational sessions designed to meet your practice needs during the COVID-19 crisis. Each program is comprised of two (2), two-hour programs offered over two (2) consecutive days.

Find out more information and register online.

NYSNA IN THE NEWS

Nurses continue to be at the center of the national conversation about COVID-19, and as the most trusted profession in the country, our voices carry substantial weight. NYSNA members have been featured in more than 100 news stories in the past week.

Below are a few recent examples:

  • 60 Minutes: On Sunday evening, Jacobi Medical Center RN Kelley Cabrera appeared on 60 Minutes. Kelley explained, “A lot of us are speaking out, because we realize that this problem is so much bigger than our individual hospitals. This is… a systematic failure.”
  • The Oprah Network: Oprah Winfrey spoke to three frontline RNs: Emily Fawcett from Northwell Health, Xenia Greene from Montefiore, and Idara Inokon from Brooklyn Methodist. Xenia Greene said, “Every time you enter the room, you would put on a new set of masks and gown. We’re not doing that now... Nurses from all over are telling me that they’re using them for multiple days, they’re using them for the entire shift. That is not sanitary and that will not protect nurses or anybody else in the community.”
  • USA Today: “Can’t expect nurses to be miracle workers: mask, equipment shortages push nurses to brink across the nation” featuring Albany Med RN Hannah Mumford: “Nobody is saying 'I don’t want to take care of these patients, I’m not willing to’ — We have just never been in a position where we have been asked to do something without appropriate protection for ourselves.”
  • Spectrum Local News: RN Lenore Granich spoke out about continued shortages of PPE at Albany Medical Center after the state assured nurses that it was providing enough to move away from crisis conservation guidelines. Granich’s comments pushed the governor to respond.
  • WNYT-TV 13: “Governor’s office responds to concerns from nurses about PPE supplies” After protests from Albany Med RNs and a Friday statement from NYSNA, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa acknowledged that the governor’s office needs to communicate directly with nurses and not just with hospital administrators, to determine whether hospitals have enough PPE. “We want to make sure that the nurses on the frontline have what they need to stay safe,” DeRosa said.

In solidarity,
Pat Kane, RN
Executive Director

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