MASKS — WSNA is aware that many of you are being asked reuse masks that have been stored in baggies, to continue to wear the same contaminated mask out into hallways and among multiple patients, to go without masks during procedures or events that could cause you to come in contact with contaminated body fluids and to take potentially contaminated masks home. On Thursday, March 12, WSNA filed a complaint on your behalf with Labor and Industries alleging that Children’s has failed to furnish nurses a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause serious injury or death.
As you are aware, we are in a declared national disaster emergency situation and are experiencing severe shortages of masks. WSNA is working with state and national agencies to get clear standardized guidance on conservation strategies for the use of masks including to the level of how to make and launder your own masks during this time of shortage. We will keep you informed about the directions we receive. Your nurse rep and Chair, Edna Cortez, have also been in contact with Children’s administration. At this time, the hospital is stating that masks are available for use when indicated. If you feel you have been denied the use of a mask where there is a risk of exposure to any communicable disease, please continue to promptly escalate your concerns through your appropriate chain of command but also please contact WSNA and fill out an ADO.
What can you do if you are denied appropriate protective gear or face another high-risk situation? You may have to make a decision about accepting an assignment involving abnormally dangerous conditions that pose an imminent risk to your safety and health and could potentially cause serious injury or death. If you have already accepted the assignment your professional license may be at risk if you fail to continue that assignment, unless you have handed off the assignment and been relieved of responsibility for the patient. If you decide to refuse the assignment, you should remain at the workplace and offer to perform other work that does not pose an imminent risk to your safety and health (e.g., an assignment for which you are provided proper safety equipment and training). A decision to refuse an assignment could result in disciplinary action taken against you by the employer. Under the collective bargaining agreement between the employer and WSNA, there must be “just cause” for any discipline. WSNA would defend you if you are subjected to unjust discipline, but resolution of any such discipline would likely be delayed and the outcome may be uncertain as a result of the current national and state emergency declarations.
QUARANTINED OR PLACED ON LOW CENSUS? WSNA has heard from a number of you related to Children’s directives requiring nurses to remain at home due to travel, illness or other situations. We are also aware of significant low census situations as routine OR cases and procedures are cancelled. On Friday March 13 , WSNA presented Children’s with a Memorandum of Understanding that we asked Children’s to agree to. Similar to the OR mold closures where Children’s found other work for nurses or paid them if there was no work, we were asking them to do the same in this situation. While we understand the travel quarantine for nurses who have been in areas that are not identified as level 3 category by the CDC has been lifted, we remain concerned that the hospital is requiring nurses to draw from their leaves for the time they were told to stay home. WSNA believes you should be paid and not have to use your leave when the hospital requires you to stay home. The MOU also would require the hospital to promptly notify nurses if they are exposed to COVID-19. It also provides some language for those nurses who fall into high risk categories and may need accommodations or to stay home during this period. Children’s notified us today that they are not interested in discussing the MOU. WSNA is disappointed that the hospital has elected to not engage with us on these important matters.
Reminder — your contract requires that if you are required to stay home as a result of any workplace exposure to a communicable disease, that time off is paid by the hospital and does NOT require you to use your leave. Please contact WSNA ASAP if your leave bank has been accessed in this situation. You should also consider applying for one of the state benefits if you are placed on low census or required to stay home. Please visit https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19 or the COVID-19 links on this website for more information.
Questions? Please contact your nurse rep or one of you local unit officers- Sara Frey JD BSN RN 206.575.7979 ext. 3039 firstname.lastname@example.org