Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new Ebola guidance for U.S. healthcare workers. AFT and National Nurses United have been pushing for more restrictive guidance to protect the millions of healthcare providers in the US.
After the news broke AFT President Randi Weingarten released the following statement:
“At hospitals throughout our nation, nurses and healthcare professionals are doing everything they can to be ready to care for whoever comes through their doors. The CDC’s new guidance for healthcare workers and the positive actions taken by the Obama administration fall directly in line with what our members called for last week: infection-control protocols and worker-preparedness plans; dedicated, specially trained teams of willing staff; and the proper equipment for nurses and healthcare professionals working in America’s hospitals.
As the second-largest nurses union in the United States, the AFT is working to keep our communities safe and healthy. That is why we are calling on the CDC to issue additional Ebola guidance for non-hospital healthcare settings and expanded guidance to guarantee wages and benefits for quarantined healthcare workers—so workers won’t have to choose between safety and living expenses. And we renew our call for hospitals to incorporate the voices of nurses and healthcare workers in the development and implementation of Ebola protocols.
We look forward to being a partner with the CDC to expand and improve guidance on Ebola or any other health issues facing America.”
The National Nurses United released the following:
National Nurses United today welcomed the call in the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for “rigorous and repeated training” for nurses and other health workers responding to the Ebola virus as NNU has been urging for two months, but said some substantial questions and concerns remain.
“It is clear from the abrupt change in position of the CDC in some areas that the registered nurses have moved the country and the CDC as the nurses champion protection for their patients and articulate the vulnerabilities for themselves. Nevertheless, the optimal standards should be in place tomorrow and, regrettably, they will not be,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro.
With still significant questions regarding the most effective personal protective equipment, and the ongoing lack of any mandate on the hospitals to comply with the highest standards and protocols, “it is clear that nurses are going to have to continue to fight every step of the way to demand that every patient, every nurse, every frontline healthcare worker has the protection they need,” DeMoro said.
“The governing theme must be the precautionary principle, the highest safety standards in the face of this virulent disease, so that no nurses, other frontline health workers, or patients have to put their lives in jeopardy,” DeMoro said.
DeMoro noted that the call for continuous training, especially in group sessions with everyone practicing putting on and taking off the protective equipment, echoes a key demand of nurses.
“Most hospitals continue to fall far short of that standard,” she said. A national NNU survey, which now has nearly 3,000 responses from nurses in over 1,000 facilities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that 84 percent of nurses say their hospital has not provided education on Ebola with the ability for nurses to interact and ask questions.
Second, DeMoro called the guideline that any protective equipment leave ‘no skin exposed,’ a “direct testament to the courage of Briana Aguirre,” the Texas Presbyterian Hospital RN who “made the incredibly brave decision” to publicly disclose that the suits at her Dallas hospital left exposed the necks and other skin of nurses who cared for Ebola-infected patients.
“Briana will be remembered as the Karen Silkwood of our time,” DeMoro said. The gap in the suits was also revealed in a statement from Aguirre and other Dallas RNs released by NNU last week.
However, the CDC guidelines remain unclear on the most effective protective equipment, and, significantly, have their own gaping hole in the option offered to hospitals to select which protective equipment to use “based on availability” and other factors.
DeMoro called that loophole “an open invitation for hospitals to choose the cheapest protective equipment that will continue to put nurses and other health workers at considerable risk. Years of experience with our private hospital industry have demonstrated that far too many hospitals routinely put their budget goals and profit margins ahead of public safety, including in access to protective equipment.”
“We are contacting the CDC for specifics on the proper protective equipment and whether it meets the precautionary principle and the highest standard, in particular, full body coverage that prevents any blood or viral penetration,” DeMoro said.
Finally, she noted, “CDC readily admits it is not a regulatory agency. It has no authority to compel hospitals to comply with any guidelines.
“That is why we will continue to insist that Congress and the White House should mandate all hospitals meet the optimal uniform, national standards and protocols in order to safely protect patients, all healthcare workers and the public,” DeMoro said.
The public is invited to join that call by signing an NNU petition online at: