NYS Nurses Association urges the Federal and State government to issue emergency temporary standards to control Coronavirus

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 6, 2020
Contact: Carl Ginsburg | carl.ginsburg@nysna.org | 917.405.1060

New York State Nurses Association urges the Federal and State government to issue emergency temporary standards to control Coronavirus

New York, NY – In the face of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infecting more and more New Yorkers and out of concern for its spread in the nation, and the world over, the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), the largest union and association of registered nurses in the state, is calling upon the federal government and the NY State Department of Health to take immediate action to protect the front line health care workers who will be key to halting the spread of the virus and treating its victims.

Currently, there are no enforceable OSHA infectious diseases standards in place to protect health care workers from COVID-19.  In addition, the State Department of Health, which has broad authority to regulate hospitals and other health care facilities, has yet to issue mandatory orders and protocols to protect patients and health care workers.

“According to the World Health Organization,” wrote David Michaels, former assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health this week, “protecting health-care workers from the coronavirus should be every country's first priority.”

NYSNA nurses are reporting a range of shortcomings around protections at their facilities, including poor access to appropriate protective equipment, lack of training on equipment and protocols, and improper assessment and triage of patients.

The preliminary results of an ongoing nation-wide survey of registered nurses on the preparedness of our hospitals to effectively address the COVID-19 outbreak by National Nurses United has so far found that a large percentage of staff nurses have not received clear communication from their administration, that stocks of personal protective equipment are insufficient or are not made readily available, and that staff have not been trained in the proper use of protective equipment.

“Our nurses are prepared to protect and care for patients infected with COVID-19," said Pat Kane, RN, NYSNA's executive director. “But we need the appropriate level of nurse staffing and the protective equipment to get the job done. We urge government authorities and hospital management to start listening.”

Accordingly, NYSNA demands that Federal and State health authorities take the following immediate actions:

  1. Urgent action must be taken to immediately procure and distribute to hospitals and other health care facilities adequate stocks of protective equipment, including N95 respirators, reusable respirators (PAPRs), face shields and impermeable gowns.  Hospitals should not be left to scramble to find protective equipment on their own.
  2. The Federal and State health authorities must immediately issue mandatory enforceable guidelines and protocols for all hospitals and other facilities to protect health workers and patients from avoidable exposure, and train and drill all staff in the proper implantation of these standards.
  3. Immediate steps must be taken to provide resources necessary to properly staff all hospitals and other facilities until the crisis has passed.
  4. Financial support must be immediately appropriated to fully pay all healthcare workers who are exposed and are subject to isolation or quarantine.  Legal authority and financial support should also be extended to provide paid sick time to the broader population that lacks these benefits.
  5. Steps must be taken to fund the expansion of available beds and isolation rooms to prepare a robust surge capacity in the event of a rapid spike in cases and patients needing treatment.

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The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) represents more than 42,000 members in New York State. We are New York’s largest union and professional association for registered nurses. For more information, please visit www.nysna.org.

About NYSNA

We are 42,000 nurses working together to win safe staffing, keep hospitals open for care, stop the Wall Street attack on our patients, and win healthcare for all.