LANSING – Registered nurses around Michigan report they are seeing a general trend of hospitals with shortage of protective equipment, lack of policies protecting nurses and other frontline workers, and unclear procedures for how to deal with patients exposed to or infected with COVID-19.
“Our focus, as always, is taking care of patients, and nurses are determined to keep doing our jobs during this crisis,” said Jamie Brown, RN, a Kalamazoo nurse who is president of the Michigan Nurses Association, the largest union and professional organization representing registered nurses in Michigan. “We all know that nurses and other frontline workers have to be taken care of so we can take care of our patients and community. In general, we need hospitals to be more prepared and listening to nurses’ concerns. We know what we need to do our jobs safely for our community.”
Michigan now has at least 80 cases of COVID-19, with many more expected.
Local MNA nurse leaders have been trying to work with their health care facilities for weeks to collaborate and prepare for Michigan receiving COVID-19 patients, with mixed results.
Generally, the following issues are problematic:
- There is a lack of, or improper rationing of, proper personal protective equipment for nurses such as N95 masks.
- There is a failure to set up proper protocols for screening and treating suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, including health care staff and others entering health care workplaces.
- There is a failure to guarantee that nurses in vulnerable populations – those 60 or older, with underlying medical conditions, immunodeficiencies or confirmed pregnancies – won’t have to take care of COVID-19 patients.
- There is a failure to guarantee that nurses who become exposed or infected at work won’t have to suffer loss of wages or use their own vacation time.
Nurses stressed that every hospital is different in terms of its cooperation and communication with nurses and other frontline workers.
At Michigan Medicine (University of Michigan Health System), Michigan Nurses Association nurses recently fought for and won key protections, including up to 200 hours of special-use paid time off for nurses who get exposed to COVID-19 at work.
“Nurses at Michigan Medicine demanded the highest standards to protect nurses and patients during this unprecedented crisis,” said Katie Oppenheim, RN, chair of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association. “While there is still room for improvement, this is what’s possible because nurses are tireless advocates for our patients. If hospitals around the state would sit down with their nurses and act on frontline workers’ concerns, we can all get through this together.”
The Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) is the largest, most effective union for RNs across the state. As the voice for all registered nurses in Michigan, MNA advocates for nurses and their patients at the Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table.
Contact: Dawn Kettinger, 517-721-9688