Speed Reads

the coronavirus crisis

Nurses suspended after refusing to work in coronavirus ward without proper protection

Ten nurses at Providence St. John's Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, were suspended after saying they would not work inside the hospital's coronavirus ward without adequate personal protective equipment, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Nurses working with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients were reportedly told by hospital administrators that a paper surgical mask is safe. Due to shortages of more protective N95 masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has permitted the use of surgical masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, nurses in the coronavirus ward learned that one of their co-workers had tested positive for COVID-19. That day, nurses told administrators they wanted N95 masks, the Times reports, but managers ordered the nurses to go back to their patients, saying they would be reported to the California Board of Registered Nursing for patient abandonment if they didn't do it.

Nurse Jack Cline told the Times his colleagues are willing to "reuse the same mask all day long and cover it up with a surgical mask, just issue us one mask a shift. That's all we're asking for." Cline said that last Friday, several doctors, who all had N95 masks, warned him not to enter the room of a patient suspected of having COVID-19. He refused to go in without an N95 mask, and was suspended. Cline said he thinks the hospital is stockpiling N95 masks in case there is a surge in patients.

Citing patient privacy laws, the hospital would not tell the Times how many nurses have been infected with COVID-19. It did release a statement saying Providence St. John's Medical Center is "grateful for the heroic work our nurses perform each day and will not let the actions of a few diminish the appreciation we have for all our nurses and their commitment to our community."