News & Events

Latest COVID-19 MNA Letter to Gov. Baker Sounds Alarm on Dangerous Decisions Being Made about Protective Equipment and Service Closures While Hospitals Layoff and Cancel Nurses Despite Extra Funding

04.14.2020

The MNA is advocating for a consistent approach to COVID-19 utilizing the expertise of frontline nurses and healthcare workers

CANTON, Mass. – As the COVID-19 pandemic surges across Massachusetts, nurses and healthcare professionals on the front lines have identified crucial areas in which healthcare facilities and state officials must improve response, including:

  • Providing safe and consistent personal protective equipment (PPE), including one-time use N95 masks, to every frontline healthcare worker
  • Not placing healthcare workers in the position of being test cases for largely unvetted and unproven mask re-use and decontamination procedures
  • Halting dangerous and inexcusable closures of intensive care units and other essential services
  • Ensuring there are no staff layoffs or cancellations when redeployments can bolster surge capacity and hospitals are receiving more than $800 million in additional state and federal funding

“Nurses and healthcare professionals are giving everything they have to combat COVID-19 and save lives,” said RN and MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams. “All caregivers on the front lines are at risk, and we do not need to put them further in peril by refusing to provide crucial protective equipment, closing critical services and sending co-workers home when they could be redeployed to help care for patients during the surge.”

In its sixth letter to Gov. Charlie Baker, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders and the Massachusetts Legislature, 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, calls on state officials and healthcare employers to immediately apply the experience and expertise of nurses and healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MNA also sent Attorney General Maura Healey a letter on April 13 requesting immediate intervention in three hospital service closures: Steward Health Care indefinitely closed the ICUs at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer and Holy Family Hospital’s Merrimack campus. Two weeks ago, Cape Cod Health Care announced the permanent closure of maternity and pediatrics at Falmouth Hospital. All were shuttered without the required 90-day notice to state and local authorities, and without the owner’s submission of plans and public hearings that are explicitly required under 105 CMR 130.122.

“While these actions should not be sanctioned at any time, certainly in the midst of the worst pandemic in 100 years these actions are opportunistic and offensive, and we hope your office will in take immediate action to rectify the situation,” Kelly-Williams wrote in the letter to the Attorney General.

The April 14 Gov. Baker letter, the AG Healey letter, and a new video of MNA Executive Director Julie Pinkham providing a COVID-19 update, can be found at www.massnurses.org/COVID-19. The MNA previously sent letters on March 14, March 19, March 24, March 31 and April 7.

Highlighted Updates in April 14 Letter:

  • Universal N95 Masking. The absolute priority of every nurse and healthcare worker on the front lines of COVID-19 is being able to use proper personal protective equipment (PPE), especially N95 masks. Healthcare facilities are not making N95 masks universally available, even though science shows asymptomatic people can spread the virus.

From the MNA April 14 letter:

“Dangerous decisions are being made regarding the reuse of PPE as healthcare facilities experiment with decontamination methods not supported by scientific evidence. The acknowledged risks of unproven decontamination methods for  masks include a failure of filtration efficiency, reduced breathability, strap failure and ineffective face-fit, and the very real possibility that “reused respirators may not have been effectively decontaminated of SARS-CoV-2 or other pathogens” per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, there is the effect of mask breakdown causing abrasions to the wearer as well as ongoing respiratory effects of off gassing from hydrogen peroxide are only two of the immediate concerns for this unproven method. This is to say nothing of the unknown risks as we rush to employ these unproven methods. Workers are being used as test cases for both the effectiveness of the decontamination method as well as whether the method of decontamination itself will causes the wearer any lasting adverse effects.”

  • Halt all bed, unit and facility closures. The surge of a global pandemic is not the time to be closing hospital services.

From the MNA April 14 letter:

“We reiterate our call for the state to direct healthcare facilities to halt all planned bed, unit and facility closures. This includes the closure of mental health beds at Trinity Health-owned Providence Behavioral Health Hospital, the closure of the Somerville Hospital Emergency Department set to close on April 30, just as we are expected to see a surge in hospitalizations, the ICU closures at Nashoba Valley Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill and the planned closure of the Maternal Child Health Unit at Falmouth Hospital. In addition to being detrimental to the public’s health, these last three closures were also done in violation of the state regulatory process. We cannot allow this current crisis to use as a cover for irresponsible decisions that in normal times would receive more scrutiny and opposition.”

From the MNA April 14 letter:

“There is no justification for staff reductions considering this money and the crisis at hand. We are concerned that some hospitals are using this crisis as an excuse to shed staffing costs and that this infusion of money is not being used to retain, retrain and/or redeploy staff, but to improve hospital bottom lines.”

  • Liability Protection for Frontline Staff and Volunteers. Nurses and other licensed health care professionals, including volunteers and new graduates, are being redeployed to treat COVID-19 patients. This means that many will be working in new or unfamiliar practice areas. We need to be sure they are protected from liability as they respond to this pandemic.

From the MNA April 14 letter:

“We commend the [Baker] administration for its proactive step in filing comprehensive legislation to address liability issues for licensed healthcare personnel. This legislation should be passed expeditiously to protect those who are on the frontlines of this crisis.”

  • Frontline Perspective in Ethical Decision Making. Frontline nurses have been excluded from the ethical decision-making processes outlined in guidance from the state last week.

From the MNA April 14 letter:

Much like N95 masks, the concept of rationing care has already invaded the thinking and decision-making process, causing extreme strife among for clinicians and familiesAssuring that front-line staff is actively part of the communication, input and support during these difficult decisions will help with the lasting effects those decisions will have on the people who will have to make and implement them.”

Read the full April 14, 2020 MNA letter to Gov. Baker, the Attorney General hospital service closure letter 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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