News & Events

Massachusetts Nurses Association Releases March 31 Letter to Governor Baker Opposing New State PPE Guidance and Calling for Stronger Protection and Support for Frontline Healthcare Workers to Combat COVID-19

03.31.2020

The MNA is advocating for a consistent approach to COVID-19 statewide within healthcare facilities that upholds the highest personal protective equipment safety standards

 

CANTON, Mass. – The Massachusetts Nurses Association, representing more than 23,000 frontline nurses and healthcare professionals in 85 healthcare facilities and the vast majority of RNs in hospitals statewide, released its newest letter to Gov. Charlie Baker on March 31, 2020 opposing a new state memo on personal protective equipment (PPE) and calling for the universal adoption of the highest safety standards for frontline nurses and healthcare workers.

The MNA has sent Gov. Baker, Health and Human Services Secretary MaryLou Sudders and the Massachusetts Legislature COVID-19 letters on March 14, March 19 and March 24. All letters, including the March 31 letter and the MNA statement in response to recently issued HHS personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance can be found at www.massnurses.org/COVID-19.

A March 31, 2020 video of MNA Executive Director Julie Pinkham discussing these issues can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Tus4ABsOM_8

“The health of our communities and the lives of our families, friends and neighbors depends on how we protect frontline nurses and healthcare workers right now,” said RN and MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams. “COVID-19 spreads quickly and quietly. As we speak, inside hospitals across Massachusetts, there are tens of thousands of dedicated, passionate people battling this pandemic.

“Unfortunately, there has been no consistent approach to fighting COVID-19 statewide that takes into account the safest protection standards for our frontline workers,” Kelly-Williams said. “The MNA has been the only organization driving a uniform standard of protection and support recommendations for healthcare workers in Massachusetts, as well as promoting the most effective means for hospitals to organize and provide the care to COVID-19 patients. In the absence of cohesion by the healthcare industry and the state’s inability or unwillingness to enforce a consistent approach, the MNA has tried to use our communications with the governor, as well as pressure on the local level at MNA-represented healthcare facilities, to ensure an approach to this crisis that will keep nurses and frontline healthcare workers safely at the bedside and battling this pandemic.”

Highlighted new information since March 24 letter:

  • The Executive Office of Health and Human Services issued a memo dated March 27 regarding use of PPE (Guidance Regarding Requesting Personal Protective Equipment) that is deeply disturbing. See the full MNA statement about this HHS memo at www.massnurses.org/COVID-19.

From the MNA March 31 letter:

 “As written, this memo entices employers to continue to justify lowering standards in the delivery of care. It puts both patients and frontline healthcare personnel at risk. In order to stop the spread of this virus among the vulnerable population within the hospital walls, we must be more vigilant, not less. … If direct care providers are not wearing N95 masks in patient rooms and surgical masks outside of the rooms, we are inviting viral spread among vulnerable hospital patients and increasing the risk that larger numbers of health care workers will contract the virus and be unable to continue to provide patient care just as the need for such care escalates.”

  • While some hospitals have pursued areas of expanded ICU bed capacity and personnel to staff the increased capacity, many still have not. There needs to be urgent expansion of ICU capacity, staffing and training for staff redeployed to help in the ICU.

From the MNA March 31 letter:

“It is particularly important at this stage to turn our attention to establishing additional ICU capacity for COVID-19 patients and utilizing this time to train the staff of areas impacted by reduced patient census to assist the increased needs of COVID-19 patients, including the unconventional use of single ventilators to support more than one patient."

  • Healthcare employers are absurdly claiming that large percentages of their frontline healthcare workers who have been potentially exposed and are on quarantine have been exposed out in the community rather than in facilities where there are COVID-19 patients.

From the MNA March 31 letter:

“There seems to be an attempt by employers to default to the assumption that employees who test positive must have contracted the virus in the community rather than in the healthcare facility and therefore, the employer does not consider their illness occupational. For weeks frontline personnel have raised concerns regarding the co-mingling of patients, failure to triage and segregate patients, the lack of appropriate PPE, the failure to provide timely testing and results to healthcare workers and the delay in providing onsite facility parking to employees, forcing healthcare workers to cram into crowded shuttle buses to get to their work. To suggest that none of these issues may have contributed to an increased likelihood of viral spread among the workforce is both ridiculous and reprehensible.

  • Healthcare facilities should use all resources to fight this pandemic and should not be cancelling or furloughing staff. Nurses and healthcare workers should instead be kept on, redeployed and trained as necessary to care for patients during the looming surge in COVID-19 patients.

The recently passed federal COVID-19 legislation includes $130 billion for hospitals. Many hospitals have made millions of dollars in profits in recent years and have huge surpluses sitting in Cayman Islands and other overseas accounts (https://www.massnurses.org/news-and-events/p/openItem/11324). Therefore, any healthcare facility should have the resources themselves or through federal or state support to avoid cutting frontline staff when we actually need more resources to fight this pandemic.

From the MNA March 31 letter:

“Despite dire warnings that we may not have enough staff to meet the increased demands that will be put on our healthcare system, healthcare facilities are proceeding with planned layoffs and furloughing healthcare staff. This is not the time to be eliminating frontline healthcare workers. Instead, we should be looking to train these nurses and deploy them into the areas that will see surges in patient volume. As we said in previous communications, we will need nurses who can staff newly designated acute care or ICU units."

“Some healthcare employers are still planning service closures amid this pandemic, including the elimination of 74 child and adult mental health beds at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, the closure of the Somerville Hospital Emergency Department and the elimination of a detox unit in Springfield.”

“We have been informed that Atrius Health, which serves over 740,000 patients in Eastern Massachusetts, intends to furlough healthcare staff due to a lack of available finances."

NOTE: ATRIUS HEALTH 2018 IRS Form 990 & Audited Financial Info.

  • TOTAL SURPLUS: $39.5M in 2017; $42.9M in 2018
  • NET ASSETS: Grew from $232.2M in 2017 to $322.4M in 2018

 

Read the full March 31, 2020 MNA letter to Gov. Baker, the MNA response to the HHS PPE guidelines and more information at www.massnurses.org/COVID-19.

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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.


 

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