CANTON, Mass. – The Massachusetts Nurses Association is encouraged to learn some of the steps the Baker Administration and its Reopening Advisory Board have taken regarding the resumption of normal healthcare services, while remaining vigilant about the re-institution of science-based personal protective equipment (PPE) standards, the application of consistent return-to-work rules for healthcare workers, and the need for an advisory group of caregivers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As healthcare facilities begin to resume normal operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative the voices of frontline nurses and healthcare professionals are heard,” said RN and MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams. “Healthcare operations must resume in a way that protects and supports staff, with clear standards across facilities, so that all patients are safe, and the outbreak does not resurge.”
“We are pleased the administration has reinstated the ICU safe patient limits law that protects the health and safety of our most vulnerable patients,” Kelly-Williams said. “Because healthcare facilities are under pressure to recoup lost revenue and quickly ramp-up elective and other non-emergency procedures, it is critical the state closely monitors their adherence to safety standards and heeds the advice of frontline healthcare workers.”
The MNA has called for an advisory group of nurses and healthcare professionals on the frontlines of COVID-19 to provide insight and recommendations on how best to organize patient care across the state as healthcare facilities seek to resume normal operations and prepare to confront a potential second wave of infections.
“We have seen health systems in this state close ICUs for entire communities and withhold or provide substandard PPE that has increased the spread of the virus,” Kelly-Williams said. “We recently saw hospitals like Cape Cod Hospital furlough hundreds of staff. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have advocated for rigorous standards to protect the safety of patients and the health of frontline staff. Far too many of these standards have been ignored or undermined by hospital administrators who do not have cohesive plans of their own, and who are making decisions based on revenue and profits rather than best practices.”
Gov. Charlie Baker and his administration officials on Monday announced details of a phased re-opening plan for the Massachusetts healthcare and other industries. A 22-page document pertaining to Health and Human Services includes a multi-phase approach for resuming healthcare facility operations that have been closed during the pandemic. The document includes some of the recommendations the MNA proposed to Gov. Baker in a letter earlier this month, including the reinstatement of the ICU safe patient limits law and the screening of all patients entering the facility.
MNA nurses and healthcare professionals continue to advocate for additional measures, including:
- A return to science-based PPE standards. The CDC weakened its PPE standards at the beginning of the pandemic, allowing healthcare facilities to force staff to re-use masks manufactured for one-time use numerous times. The newly issued state standards refer facilities to the current, weaker CDC PPE guidelines. The MNA has also called for a halt to mask decontamination because of the lack of long-term studies of the efficacy and safety of the processes.
- Consistent return-to-work standards. Healthcare facilities have employed vastly different approaches and rules for staff returning to work. Some have required two negative COVID-19 tests, while others have not required tests at all. For the resumption of normal operations to be safe and successful, there needs to be a cohesive, science-driven approach.
- Universal testing. All staff and all patients should be tested for COVID-19. Read more about the MNA’s proposed testing requirements here. Like with other measures, utilizing a coordinated approach, rather than confusion leading to problems and potential virus spread, will help us all safer.
- Presumption of workplace exposure. The MNA is advocating at the State House for legislation that will presume work exposure for all healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 or who were exposed and quarantined. Nurses and other healthcare workers are putting their lives on the line every shift caring for patients with the coronavirus. They have been on the front lines of this pandemic in trash bags, wearing makeshift face shields, placing their N95 masks in crumpled paper bags and riding in crowded shuttles. There are countless reasons why we must consider any healthcare worker who has been exposed to have acquired the virus at work.
More MNA information about COVID-19 at www.massnurses.org/COVID-19.
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.