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Nurses Concerned about Lack of COVID-19 Safety Procedures: Shocking Conditions in Washington State Hospitals

Updated on: 4/1/2020

Photos at the bottom of the page.

Two nurses employed by Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (Colby Campus) contacted the office of attorney Chris Davis at Davis Law Group in Seattle asking that he protect their identities and act as their spokesperson and release information about how health care workers on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 are being asked to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE), something that a few weeks ago would have been strictly forbidden, and are not being tested for the Corona virus.  

NOTE:  These nurses are unwilling to participate in media interviews.  They fear that they might lose their jobs if they publicly criticized Providence for not doing enough to protect healthcare workers from coronavirus.  We advised them that journalists have the First Amendment right not to be forced to reveal information or confidential news sources.  However, the nurses are just too afraid.  

Providence Health & Services is the largest health care provider in Washington state. With more than 35 hospitals, various health and living facilities and 20,000 employees statewide.

Whistleblower Nurses Reveal Shocking Lack of Coronavirus Safety Practices

These nurses want you to know:

  • A few weeks ago the protocols for dealing with COVID patients was more strict than it is now.  
  • Not all healthcare workers are permitted to wear masks. 
  • Masks are distributed via the ‘charge nurse’.  Rather than being located in one place, the charge nurse physically goes around to each worker at the beginning of their shift.  Nurses have to wait between 20-30 to be given their PPEs.  During that time patients are not getting treated or nurses have to resort to standing in the doorway shouting into the patient’s room to communicate with them.  
  • Each nurse, who is allowed to wear a mask, is given only one mask to use for the entire 12-hour shift despite working with multiple patients (some COVID-positive and some COVID-negative) during the shift.
  • At the end of each shift masks go into a bin to be cleaned and reused.  Masks were only designed and tested for single use.  
  • Masks are “sanitized” and reused.  Each mask must be used at least twice.  The sanitization method has not been shared.  Who has worn which masks is not being logged/tracked.
  • Single use items such as face and eye shields are being wiped (bleach wipes or chemical wipes) and reused numerous times. 
  • Nurses and healthcare workers that have been exposed to COVID-19 are not being tested to see if they have contracted the virus.  If a nurse or healthcare worker has been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 they are directed to continue working unless they have symptoms.
  • Those charged with working with COVID-19-positive patients are not being regularly screened for the virus. Healthcare staff will not be tested, even if they have other COVID-19 symptoms, untel they have a fever.  
  • Doctors are the only ones who have been tested.  Example: doctors and nurses exposed to a COVID-positive.  Doctor gets tested.  Nurses don’t.  
  • Nurses and healthcare workers are having direct contact with COVID-19-positive patients but wearing the same masks (only gown changed) when treating non-COVID-positive patients---potentially spreading the virus.  Scrubs not changed.  
  • If you are taking care of a positive and a negative you wear a gown over your scrubs with the positive but not the negative.  
  • Patient might be in a room next door to a positive----in ICU----not separated by hall, ward, floor.  
  • “Resource nurse” is a runner for their shift. Works with all patients positive and negative.  
  • Primary ICU nurse – typically there is a 1:2 ratio; but with staffing issues there is sometimes a 1:3—COVID and non-COVID.  
  • Nurses and healthcare workers are being encouraged to create advance healthcare directives (aka living will) that ensure that their end-of-life wishes will be carried out should they be infected—indicating that Providence Health & Services is fully aware of danger they face.  However they are not receiving ‘hazard pay’.
  • No mandatory protocol to ensure that those working with COVID-positive patients are not spreading it outside the hospital – take off clothes.
  • If blood, urine, or vomit gets on a nurses clothing she must remove all items, put them in biohazard bag, designated drop-off.  But otherwise they are not removing clothing after treating COVID-19 patients.
  • Some nurses have their children staying with grandparents during the crisis so avoid spreading.  
  • Gloves – Gloves have not been an issue yet.
  • Trays, bedpans, laundry, garbage – From COVID-19 rooms are supposed to be handled separately but it is not always happening.   
  • A few weeks ago nurses were asked to wipe their shoes with bleach wipes after visiting COVID-19 patients.  Now that bleach wipes are in short supply they are no longer required to clean their shoes.  

  

PHOTOS: Left is a screenshot of a document posted on Providence's employee intranet about healthcare directives.  Center & Right: Sign above bin collecting masks for re-use.  Photo credit: Davis Law Group

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