For months, NYSNA has been pushing hospitals around the state to move to reusable respiratory protection, including powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) and elastomeric respirators, to address the continued shortage of single-use N95s and other disposable PPE.
Our organizing is finally paying off with our first breakthrough in Brooklyn!
At the end of July, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center announced plans to provide reusable elastomeric respirators to all hospital staff, and fit-testing has already begun. Immediately following the news, Interfaith Medical Center, also a part of the One Brooklyn Health System, made a similar announcement. Respirators are scheduled to arrive the first week of August.
Nurses see need for reliable, reusable PPE
On August 5, NYSNA members at the Brooklyn Hospital Center joined New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at a press conference announcing a pilot project that will bring 300 elastomeric respirators to frontline healthcare professionals at their hospital.
“We are now preparing for a possible second wave, and we need to do it right,” Williams told the press. “We need to provide frontline health care workers with reusable PPE that is effective and protective.”
Tansia Freeman, an Emergency Department nurse at Brooklyn Hospital echoed these sentiments. “The first surge was a bad dream, and we need to be prepared for another one,” Freeman said. “RNs are still on the front lines, doing what we do best. We need the best PPE possible in order to do it.”
The Brooklyn Hospital pilot project was spearheaded by a coalition including NYSNA, the NYC Public Advocate’s office, physicians from Brooklyn Hospital and the non-profit organization COVID Courage. Physicians at the hospital had obtained a small number of elastomeric respirators during the COVID-19 surge, and found them more comfortable when used for long periods of time, compared to the N95s. The doctors also felt that it lessened their risk of contracting the virus.
Public Advocate pushing for reusable equipment
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is pressing both the city and state Departments of Health to make reusable elastomeric respirators part of New York’s preparedness plan for a resurgence of COVID-19. In a letter to city and state officials Williams pointed out:
“The order for every healthcare facility to have its own 90-day supply of PPE poses extreme challenges. Hospitals will stock according to rationing protocols that allow for limited distribution of PPE among healthcare workers and extended use of N-95, rather than stocking to levels that would provide adequate coverage and safety for all healthcare workers.
“We urge you to include and promote the partial replacement of N-95s with durable and sustainable reusable PPE for our frontline health care workers in city and state-level procurement initiatives.”
We can’t let this happen again
On August 5, NYSNA member Pat Mitchell, a MICU nurse at Brooklyn Hospital, said expanding this program is a top priority.
“Nurses showed up during the crisis and we were given one N95 and a brown paper bag. We cannot have a repeat of the first wave, when we did not have adequate PPE to keep ourselves, our patients, our families, safe. This pilot program could help us solve one part of the PPE problem by providing reliable, reusable respirators for RNs, limiting needless exposures and even deaths. We need this now.”