WSNA was notified about the outbreak on the 7th floor by SJMC manage­ment shortly after they notified SJMC staff on October 22, 2020.

We immedi­ately connected with the nurses on that unit to hear their perspec­tive about what was happening and how we could best work together.

In an effort to make sure the nurses voices were heard WSNA drafted and sent a letter to SJMC leader­ship that included what the affected nurses in that unit had identi­fied as immediate concerns. The other health­care unions, SEIU and UFCW shared the same letter from their repre­sented health­care workers, as the concerns were all the same.

The staff continued to deliver consis­tent, quality patient care as they always do, despite the mounting stress and uncer­tain­ties they were experi­encing. It did not take long for the number of cases to increase and spread to units and staff outside of the epicenter 7th floor. SJMC manage­ment held Zoom meetings but there were many questions and concerns that were going unanswered. On October 28, hospital administrator’s sent out another communication.

Again, nurses and staff were left feeling like the updates and commu­ni­ca­tions were not consis­tent with what those on the front­lines were experi­encing. WSNA RNs requested an emergency meeting with repre­sen­ta­tives from the Governor’s Office, the Depart­ment of Health, the Tacoma Pierce County Health Depart­ment, the Depart­ment of Occupa­tional Safety and Health, WSNA leadership.

On October 30th, the repre­sen­ta­tives of the above-mentioned regula­tory agencies listened to what the nurses had to say. Conse­quently, DOSH reported they are launching an inves­ti­ga­tion and the other two agencies committed to follow-up on issues that the nurses shared.

The top four issues nurse identi­fied they need to keep themselves and their patients safe are: 

Paid admin­is­tra­tive leave

  • We need paid admin­is­tra­tive leave for nurses who are placed in quaran­tine or on leave awaiting COVID test results. No nurse should be forced to choose between working a shift without knowing if they could infect patients or going without pay.
  • For nurses who have been low censused due to COVID. Nurses are already under stress due to the work they do and the risk the place themselves in to care for patients. They should not have to worry about losing their income too.

PPE

  • It is unaccept­able especially during a pandemic and now during an outbreak at the hospital, for any nurse to perform their job to have readily acces­sible and proper protected equip­ment. Every worker must have all the equip­ment they need for every shift, every patient, and every procedure.

Testing

  • We need better access to rapid testing for both patients and staff. Our nurses are rightly concerned about their own health and their families’, and whether it is safe for them to be working with patients while waiting to learn their COVID status. 

Safe staffing

  • Safe staffing levels must be maintained in every depart­ment and on every shift to ensure quality and safe patient care. 

Due to the continued, unrelenting advocacy we were displaying, SJMC leader­ship finally agreed to meet with WSNA Leader­ship and the affected RNs on Monday, Nov. 2. That meeting did not take place as planned, because Depart­ment of Safety and Occupa­tional Health had moved on our advocacy and reports and were on hospital grounds to begin the inves­ti­ga­tion. The meeting is now in process of being resched­uled and nurses are preparing for partic­i­pa­tion in the DOSH inves­ti­ga­tion. Non-nursing staff that are repre­sented by UFCW-21 and SEIU 1199 who have been affected are working with their unions to continue our collab­o­ra­tive actions during this outbreak. 

This newsworthy story has also captured the atten­tion of KIRO news as well as our local Tacoma News Tribune. Here are the links to the newspaper stories:.

TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE: Staffers at Tacoma hospital with COVID outbreak work while awaiting surveil­lance test results (11/2/20)

TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE: Tacoma hospital’s COVID-19 probe grows with 18 cases now reported; testing expands (10/30/20)

We do want to be sure to give a big shout out to the coura­geous and strong WSNA nurses who have relent­lessly stood up for the health and safety of the workers and our patients!

If you have any questions or comments, reach out to any local unit officer or your WSNA nurse repre­sen­ta­tive, Barbara Friesen, at bfriesen@wsna.org or 206 – 575-7979 ext. 3056.