Picture: Win McNamee/Getty Photos
Well being staff are on the entrance traces of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and that doesn’t simply imply they’re already at excessive danger for contracting the sickness. They’re additionally on the mercy of their employers, whose cost-cutting measures might hurt employees and sufferers alike. On March 19, the Intercept reported that some geriatricians and different nursing-home staff have been compelled to proceed working, although they’d been uncovered to COVID-19 and had not acquired a check. In Chicago, an infectious illness nurse sued Northwestern Memorial Hospital for firing her after she’d warned that the masks they’d offered to employees had been insufficient. The nurse, Lauri Mazurkiewicz, had warned colleagues by e mail that N95 respirators had been simpler than the masks the hospital had ordered them to put on.
That story sounds acquainted to Jane, a nurse at a prestigious, privately owned hospital in Ohio. (We’ve modified her identify to guard her id.) A member of the American Federation of Lecturers, which is the nation’s second-largest nurses union, Jane fell sick not lengthy after she returned from an early March journey to Eire along with her fiancé. Although Eire had no recognized instances of COVID-19 when Jane arrived, that had modified by the point of her departure. When she reported her signs to her office and knowledgeable them that she’d been in a foreign country, the hospital informed her to return in anyway — and put on a masks. Jane spoke to Intelligencer by cellphone this week. This interview has been condensed for size and edited for readability.
Lay out the timeline of occasions for me right here.
After we deplaned at JFK we acquired a card that mentioned proper on the high, “Well being Alert: Coronavirus Illness 2019. You may have traveled to a rustic with an outbreak of COVID-19 and are at a better danger. Please keep house. Keep house for the following 14 days and monitor your well being. Take your temperature with a thermometer two instances a day and look ahead to signs. For those who’re sick and have signs, name forward earlier than going to your physician’s workplace or emergency room.” So I gave this all to worker well being [Ed. notice: “Worker well being” refers to a degree one that handles immunizations, TB testing, and different important wants for nursing employees]. I despatched them an image of the cardboard. The airline really despatched me a hyperlink to the CDC web site that mentioned just about the very same factor, listed all of the nations. So I forwarded that to my worker well being as effectively. And my worker well being nurse mentioned that the hospital the place I work wasn’t following CDC suggestions for vacationers, and that I’d be anticipated to report back to work and to put on a masks.
So I went to work. After I acquired there, I had already taken a gram of Tylenol and my temperature was 99.9. My physician was on the hospital, and he determined to confess me on to the hospital for COVID-19 testing, as a result of worker well being wouldn’t provide me a check earlier than returning to work. I might have been placing my sufferers’ lives in danger as a result of they didn’t need to check me.
After I acquired the check on the hospital, my physician informed me to remain house. I used to be off work for 4 days ready for the outcomes. Got here again yesterday. They had been adverse, thank God. However now they are saying they gained’t pay me as a result of the check is adverse and I’ll have to make use of my trip time.
Have been you stunned on the means they dealt with this?
Most of us have needed to come to work sick. However, , coming to work with a chilly, taking correct precautions while you’re feeling underneath the climate, is one factor. Having to work and placing a weak inhabitants susceptible to life-threatening hurt is totally different.
Is your hospital understaffed?
No, we’re not. We’ve been understaffed perhaps the final six months, however we’re not usually understaffed now. After I was admitted, the nurse that was caring for me acquired to go house early as a result of she was not crucial for staffing necessities. So not solely had I left to be admitted to the hospital, they had been additionally sending different nurses house as a result of they weren’t wanted that day.
What justification did they offer you for not following CDC pointers right here?
They mentioned they’d their very own pointers.
And did they clarify to you what these pointers had been?
That I used to be anticipated to work sporting the masks.
Yep. I did attain out to my labor union. However actually, what grew to become of that is that I paid a bunch of cash to go to the hospital to have a check as a result of they refused to do this. And now I’ve to pay myself for the break day. I used to be simply attempting to guard a really weak inhabitants. I went into work on Friday and I really noticed two sufferers that had been presumably COVID optimistic. Considered one of them was an 86-year-old man and one was a 39-year-old lady. And, , I simply felt very uneasy. I didn’t even go to see the opposite affected person I’d been assigned as a result of they weren’t in isolation. And I felt like, what if I do have one thing and I might give it to this particular person?
Are you aware of some other nurses who’ve skilled one thing related at your office?
Effectively, now we have a gaggle message, and now the non-public protecting tools scarcity has change into fairly a difficulty affecting us too. We use paper masks. We’re not sporting N95 respirators. They mentioned that’s come down not due to good science, however as a result of there’s such a scarcity of apparatus.
What has this been like for you emotionally?
I’m nonetheless upset. I’m so very upset. I simply can’t think about working in a system the place my well being is so disregarded, , that they’re laughing off the truth that we don’t have the best tools, that they’re telling me that they don’t care that I’m not contaminated. They put not solely their sufferers’ lives in danger, however what about my co-workers? I work with a number of people who find themselves on most cancers medicines or have autoimmune illnesses and take immunosuppressive medication. I actually have well being circumstances.
Specialists usually imagine the pandemic might go on for weeks and even months. Are you apprehensive about your hospital’s long-term strategy to the disaster?
You recognize, I’ve labored for them for almost ten years. I’m a part of the labor infrastructure at my hospital. And if it wasn’t a financial concern, I wouldn’t work right here.
You are feeling they’re placing the general public’s well being in danger?
I really feel like they’re placing everybody’s well being in danger. The employees’ well being, the group’s well being generally by not permitting issues to work the best way they need to. I really feel like all of the safeguards have failed.