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The government is failing our most important front-line defense against COVID-19: Nurses – Business Insider

The government is failing our most important front-line defense against COVID-19: Nurses – Business Insider

Nurses detailed a lack of coordination between governments and hospitals on protocols that could help stem the outbreak, with mask shortages a notable example.Nurses were already working at full capacity before the outbreak, and many are facing a choice between paying their bills and calling in sick if they get exhausted or even catch the coronavirus.In the case of a “domino effect” in which nurses begin to get sick, a nurse staffing crisis would make the health crisis worse, one nurse said.If you’re a nurse with observations to share during the coronavirus outbreak, email aakhtar@businessinsider.com.Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Maeleigh Soper, a registered travel nurse in Seattle, has been rationing masks and hand sanitizers for the past week.She said her hospital, which went through a month’s worth of masks and hand sanitizers in three days, suspects that patients and families have been stealing medical supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak.The novel coronavirus, which spread from China in December, has since infected at least 169,000 people across every continent besides Antarctica.US localities and businesses have taken steps to lessen the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, so that the healthcare system won’t be overwhelmed by new patients. But Business Insider talked to nine nurses in hospitals nationwide who said equipment shortages were putting their health and that of their patients at risk as the coronavirus continues to spread.Hospitals cannot limit the number of patients a nurse can legally care for at once in every state except California, and nurses that care for more than six patients in a day get burned out and cannot provide adequate patient care, according to research from Linda Aikens. Nurses reported grappling with equipment shortages, understaffing, and a lack of coordination on protocols between health systems and the government.

“I think the real message we need to tell people is that this is the calm before the storm,” Marcia Santini, a registered nurse at an emergency room in California, told Business Insider. “We need to keep our healthcare workers healthy, and if they get sick, that would collapse the healthcare system.”Nurses face mask shortages — and they have called on the government and hospital systems for more resources

Nurses are restricting the number of masks they use per day.

A Southern California hospital

Santini said her hospital was crowded and nearly filled to occupancy — before the coronavirus outbreak. Like Soper, Santini said her hospital has had a shortage of medical supplies, like gowns and masks. On March 10, the National Nurses United union called on the White House and hospital systems to ensure that nurses have enough protective equipment. A union survey found only 30% of nurses reported having enough equipment to deal with the outbreak.Soper works in her hospital’s oncology department, where patients receiving bone-marrow transplants have severely compromised immune systems. Soper said her biggest fear was passing on the virus, which could be deadly to people with comorbidities, to her patients. “We need to be protected because once you start the domino effect, then you’re going to have a staffing crisis,” Santini said, referring to one healthcare worker getting sick and spreading the disease to other staffers.

Nurses described feeling frustrated at the lack of coordination from hospitals and the government on proper protocolMonica, a registered nurse who works in a hospital in Washington state, identified four patients last week who she thought should have been tested for COVID-19. (Business Insider confirmed Monica’s identity before publishing this article).But because of confusion from the state’s health department and hospital providers, none received a test. The first man to die from the coronavirus in the US lived in a long-term-care facility in Washington state. Healthcare workers and other residents in the nursing home were also exposed to the virus.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Monica’s hospital, which has already faced staffing shortages, asked her to work extra shifts on top of her six continuous night shifts. In addition to a shortage of proper protective gear, Monica told Business Insider she was frustrated by the lack of coordination between federal and state governments and hospital systems on figuring out coronavirus protocols. Marie Spaner, a hospital nurse in the Los Angeles area, told Business Insider she also felt frustrated about her hospital’s lack of planning. Her hospital has not changed cleaning or sanitation protocols since the outbreak, nor has it limited visitors.

“It’s frustrating and frightening. If we can’t have things implemented properly in the hospital, then it’s a danger for us and to the patients,” Spaner told Business Insider. “We’re just grossly unprepared.”

Reuters

For nurses, getting sick means losing payMany nurses told Business Insider that if they take time off work, they won’t get paid.Carmen Martinez, who works as a nurse in the registry department in a California hospital, said she has heard of hospitals that stopped screening patients with fevers below 104 degrees Fahrenheit — even if they present other coronavirus symptoms.Without hospitals screening patients for the coronavirus when their temperature is below 104 — coupled with the shortages of protective equipment — Martinez said she was worried most about getting sick and needing to take time off work. Martinez wouldn’t be able to pay her bills if she went two weeks without work.”I don’t think America knows how much is at stake for us,” Martinez told Business Insider. “We’re putting our lives at risk right now. I think everybody needs to remember that we’re in the front lines. We’re at risk, but there has to be provision made for us.”

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