On Wednesday, the executive director of a national nurses union blasted the Obama administration for ignoring the concerns of nurses who have been saying for weeks that their hospitals are not prepared to treat patients with Ebola.
After a second nurse at the Texas hospital that treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian immigrant who died last week after becoming the first person on American soil to be diagnosed with Ebola, contracted the Ebola virus, National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said on a Wednesday conference call that this “month has been a nightmare” and it was evident that nurses had been “lied to” about their vulnerabilities to the Ebola virus.
“We’ve been essentially ignored by the White House and the CDC [Centers for Disease Control], and they’ve giving the hospital far too much credit,” DeMoro said.
DeMoro’s group does not represent the non-unionized nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, but she said that the nurses called them with “compelling, horrendous stories about what actually happened in Dallas” after the CDC first blamed the nurse who contracted Ebola for not following protocols that did not even exist.
“What happened in Dallas can happen anywhere,” she said of nurses who are the “first line of defense” combating Ebola.
Across the country, a nurse in Florida was suspended after she called the CDC to ask for Ebola guidance. Another nurse said her hospital’s one Ebola “negative flow” room that the hospital uses for tuberculosis patients may not even work. She said the “nurses are afraid” and “it’s an accident waiting to happen.” A nurse in Sacramento said when her hospital had an Ebola scare, they were told to look at the CDC guidelines for “virtual education” because there were no protocols.
The nurses asked Obama in a Wednesday letter “invoke his executive authority to mandate uniform, national standards and protocols that all hospitals must follow to safely protect patients, all healthcare workers, and the public.” They did not rule out potential strikes to demand better safety standards.
“The Ebola pandemic and the exposure of health care workers to the virus represent a clear and present danger to public health. We know that without these mandates to health care facilities we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers at extreme risk,” the letter states. “They are our first line of defense. We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons. In conclusion, not one more patient, nurse, or healthcare worker should be put at risk due to a lack of health care facility preparedness.”
Saying she was “deeply alarmed,” DeMoro previously said, “The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell.” Union co-president Deborah Burger said nurses at the Texas hospital were furious that there were no protocols and guidelines changed multiple times after Thomas Eric Duncan was admitted.
“This nurse was being blamed for not following protocols that did not exist… The nurses in that hospital were very angry, and they decided to contact us,” DeMoro said during a previous press conference.