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.
- 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.
- 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 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:.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 206 – 575-7979 ext. 3056.