The leaders of the Washington State Nurses Association and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW today called on state officials to address the serious shortcomings in oversight and transparency that we believe contributed to the severe outbreak of COVID-19 among staff and patients at St. Michael Hospital in Bremerton.
UFCW21, the union representing health care workers at St. Michael’s, held a press conference last week highlighting shortages of PPE, short staffing, lack of notification and other safety issues that they believe contributed to the outbreak.
SEIU 1199 and WSNA support UFCW21 in their efforts to address the serious worker safety issues at St. Michael’s and issued the following statement addressing issues that could lead to a similar outbreak in the hospitals where we represent nurses and other health care workers:
“As unions representing nurses and other health care workers in Washington state, we are appalled at the conditions at St. Michael Hospital in Bremerton and stand with UFCW21 in demanding better oversight and transparency. While this COVID-19 outbreak happened at St. Michael’s, we are deeply concerned that such an outbreak could happen elsewhere in the state.
“We are particularly concerned that individual hospitals are self-reporting available levels of Personal Protective Equipment to the state Department of Health. Since June 12, St. Michael’s has reported having more than two weeks’ supply of all personal protective equipment except Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs), but UFCW21 members report that they have not been getting the PPE they need to stay safe at the hospital. SEIU 1199 and WSNA have heard similar reports from members in some instances. We call on the state to investigate all such reports promptly, for the safety of our members and the patients they care for.
“As representatives of nurses and healthcare workers in hospitals across the state, our members have also reported delayed notification of exposure and the lack of rapid COVID-19 testing for health care staff who may have come into contact with a COVID-19 patient. This means our members are forced to wait at home, often on their own time, for test results to come back. This not only depletes available paid-time off for our members – time they may need if they do acquire COVID-19 – but also means nurses and other health care workers are not available to work at a time when they are greatly needed.
“With the flu season approaching and the potential for a surge of COVID-19 cases, we must solve these PPE, reporting, oversight, notification and testing issues now.”