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Respirators and H1N1 Information Distributed to Registered Nurses at Sacred Heart Medical Center Out of Concern for Nurse and Patient Safety

SPOKANE, Wash., Nov. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing more than 1,600 registered nurses at Sacred Heart Medical Center, is holding a press conference today to highlight serious concerns about the safety of nurses and patients at Sacred Heart Medical Center during this H1N1 pandemic. In response to numerous reports from nurses about unsafe working conditions, WSNA is demanding that the hospital fully comply with CDC guidelines on H1N1 prevention and step up its flu prevention precautions so that nurses and patients are no longer put at risk.

"I'm here today because I'm worried about the safety of my patients and fellow nurses. As a nurse, every day I come to work committed to providing excellent patient care and doing my best to promote health and safety. Nurses are being exposed to H1N1 and we are getting sick. I am one of those nurses. I had the flu, presumed to be H1N1, and it is a serious illness. I deserve to come to work and know that my employer is taking every precaution to keep me healthy," said Kristie Dimak, a registered nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

A lack of access to N95 respirators is one major area of concern for nurse and patient safety. The N95 respirators are recommended by the CDC for use when healthcare personnel are within 6 feet of suspected or confirmed H1N1 patients. Many nurses are reporting that N95s are not readily available on their units when caring for H1N1 patients and many nurses have not been properly fit-tested to ensure that the respirators will be effective. The hospital is claiming that a shortage exists and has already begun implementing policies to conserve their N95 respirators such as reusing N95s and only using them during specific procedures. However, calls to suppliers of the respirators show no such shortage and WSNA was easily able to obtain 3,000 N95 respirators which will be handed out to Sacred Heart nurses as they arrive at work following the press conference.

"We are shocked and appalled that Sacred Heart has not fully complied with the CDC guidelines and that there are nurses caring for diagnosed H1N1 patients with no N95 respirators. We have been forced to take drastic action today, addressing this issue directly with the public and the nurses. To keep nurses and patients safe, Sacred Heart absolutely must have a comprehensive flu prevention strategy with an adequate supply of safety equipment and resources. Until that happens, we will continue to be aggressive in our efforts to advocate for the safety of nurses and patients at Sacred Heart Medical Center and educate our nurses about how they can help prevent the spread of H1N1 this winter," said Barbara Frye, BSN, RN, Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations for WSNA.

WSNA's actions were prompted by a number of reports and formal complaints filed by nurses who are concerned about their own safety and their ability to keep patients safe. WSNA believes that Sacred Heart is in violation of OSHA standards and state regulations on the issues of infection control and an employer's responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace. WSNA has filed complaints against Sacred Heart with both the Department of Health and the Department of Occupational Health and Safety at L&I to ensure patient and nurse safety.

"Nurses need the proper equipment and support systems to provide the best possible care. It is unacceptable for nurses to be denied N95 respirators, reprimanded for wearing N95 respirators, and getting sick from caring for flu patients. Nurses deserve protection when caring for diagnosed or suspected H1N1 patients," said Marty Avey, a registered nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Founded in 1908, WSNA is the professional organization representing more than 16,000 registered nurses in Washington State. WSNA effectively advocates for the improvement of health standards and availability of quality health care for all people; promotes high standards for the nursing profession; and advances the professional and economic development of nurses.

SOURCE Washington State Nurses Association

SOURCE Washington State Nurses Association
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