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Nurses' Union Wants More Personal Protective Equipment, Stricter Standards To Combat COVID-19

National Nurses Unite flyer
National Nurses Unite

National Nurses Unite is calling for HCA Healthcare to provide more personal protective equipment to its hospitals.

Registered nurses in Nevada and 14 other states are coming together this week to shine a light on what they call a lack of preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic on the part of hospital parent company HCA Healthcare.

National Nurses Unite held events Wednesday at multiple HCA hospitals, including MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas. More are planned for Thursday.

Nicole Koester is a registered nurse in labor and Delivery at MountainView and a nurse representative for the union. She told KNPR the personal protective equipment nurses at HCA hospitals are being provided would have, until recent months, been labeled for single use only. The purpose of single-use protective equipment such as masks is to help prevent contaminants from leaving a sick patient's room and infecting others.

"[We're] now being told that we get one mask and we should use that mask for the entirety of our shifts," Koester said, "which seems like  a very large issue for us, mostly because it will allow us to spread this virus and bacteria from patient to patient to patient as we re-use that mask for an entire 12 hours."

Koester said another concern is a lack of communication about patient test results. She cited a turnaround rate of five to 13 days for coronavirus testing in HCA hospitals.

"In many instances, these patients are being sent home to self-quarantine while we wait for the results, and the nurses are never being notified if they’ve cared for a patient who did, in fact, end up testing positive," she said, "They could be spreading this infection quite rapidly.”

At the events, union representatives are surveying nurses about the challenges they’re facing during the pandemic. They’re also petitioning the federal government to return to stricter personal protective equipment guidelines.

Koester said the union wants to raise awareness about healthcare professionals’ need for better access to tools that will help slow infection rates.

“The community within Las Vegas and within the country is trying their very best to do their part by staying home and by social distancing, and being in a situation where we cannot be six feet away from our coworkers, where we cannot be six feet away from our patients - it makes it very difficult for us to do our part.”

Mountainview CEO Jeremy Bradshow told Nevada Public Radio the hospital is following CDC protocols. "While others attempt to distract or scare us, we will remain committed to keeping focus on our employees and patients."

He added that the hospital has enacted universal masking for all employees; appointed a steward to oversee deployment of protective gear; expanded distribution areas on hospital campuses to distribute protective gear; and has enacted pandemic pay continuation programs.


Nicole Koester; Registered Nurse in Labor And Delivery at MountainView Hospital and Nurse Representative for National Nurses Unite

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Nikole Robinson Carroll is KNPR's Morning Edition host. You can hear her every morning from 5am until 10am on News 889. She also produces segments for KNPR's State of Nevada.