US nurses took part in vigils, rallies and strikes yesterday in protest at what they claim are inadequate measures to deal with ebola, which they say are symptomatic of an overall erosion of care standards.
From California to Florida, 100,000 registered nurses joined a “wave of actions” to draw attention to eroding patient care standards in the US that are “symbolized by inadequate preparedness for fighting the ebola virus”, said the union National Nurses United.
“We know from years of experience that these hospitals will meet the cheapest standards, not the most effective precautions”
Rose Ann DeMoro
Nurses in at least 16 US states took part in strikes, candlelight vigils, hospital pickets, and rallies at federal offices. A vigil was held outside the White House in Washington DC and Californian nurses held a rally outside the Federal Building in Oakland.
National Nurses United claimed that the protests were also supported by similar action in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Philippines and Spain.
The union has previously complained about the poor quality of protective equipment available to US nurses and a lack of training in how to deal with ebola cases.
So far, two nurses – Amber Vinson and Nina Pham – have been infected with ebola while in the US, both of whom have now recovered.
“The lack of concern for nurses and patients in a world where corporations have taken over our community health care has been magnified during this deadly Ebola crisis,” said NNU executive director Rose Ann DeMoro. “Hospitals should be forced to spend the money on patient safety that they spend on public relations.”
The union is demanding “optimal” personal protective equipment for nurses and other caregivers who interact with ebola patients.
It defines this as full-body hazmat suits that meet national standards for blood and viral penetration, and that leave no skin exposed or unprotected, plus powered air purifying respirators with an assigned protection factor of at least 50.
It also wants all facilities provide “continuous, rigorous interactive training” for nursing staff who might encounter ebola, including practice putting on and taking off the hazmat suits when some of the greatest risk of infection can occur.
National Nurses United said it had repeatedly called on the White House and US Congress to mandate all hospitals to meet these standards.
“We know from years of experience that these hospitals will meet the cheapest standards, not the most effective precautions. And now we are done talking and ready to act,” said Ms DeMoro.