Just seven percent of nurses at HCA Healthcare facilities say they have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect staff and patients if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases.
United States nurses from 15 hospitals across seven states are set to stage protests both Wednesday and Thursday over a lack of protective gear and precautions to safely fight the coronavirus pandemic.
"When we are infected, we become a real danger of infecting everyone else around us, patients, hospital staff, and a risk to our own families," Kim Smith, a registered nurse in Texas said.
The protest is organized by the National Nurses United (NNU) at hospitals run by HCA Healthcare, the country's largest and wealthiest for-profit hospital operator. The union represents 10,000 nurses at HCA hospitals, which the union says has left its nurses even less prepared for the pandemic than healthcare providers at most other facilities in the nation.
Just seven percent of nurses at HCA Healthcare facilities say they have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect staff and patients if there is a surge in COVID-19 cases, compared with 19 percent of nurses in general, according to the NNU.
We must lower the epidemic peak and #ProtectNurses! Flattening the curve of #COVID19 is essential to prevent a catastrophic overload of our hospitals.— Bonnie Castillo (@NNUBonnie) March 28, 2020
However, capacity is driven lower every time a nurse falls sick because they provided care without the proper protection.�� pic.twitter.com/a6yRAkPD2P
"Nurses at various HCA hospitals are reporting that they have had to work without proper protective equipment," NNU President Jean Ross said, adding “they are not informed when they are exposed to an infected patient. They are told to unsafely reuse masks and at one hospital they are even being told not to wear masks because it 'scared the patients.'"
The union said in a statement that despite making around US$23 billion in profits in the last decade, HCA Healthcare nurses in states including California, Florida, and Texas have few N95 face masks and other PPE to keep them from contracting the new coronavirus.
Only 35 percent of nurses in the HCA network report having access to N95 respirators, compared with 52 percent of nurses nationwide.
This comes as the U.S. has over 212,000 cases and 4,700 deaths. On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump warned that between 100,000 and 240,000 people are expected to die from the pandemic in the country.