Overflowing Hospi­tals
At the onset of the COVID crisis everyone was fearful the pandemic would cause hospi­tals to overflow with patients, nurses would be working huge amounts of overtime, and there would be a need to float nurses between facil­i­ties. WSNA moved swiftly and success­fully negoti­ated an agree­ment with CHI to protect nurses in those situa­tions as well as nurses that were at high risk due to age or under­lying health condi­tions as is reflected in our first CHI COVID related Memorandum of Agree­ment (MOA).

Inade­quate PPE
Our next surprise was CHI was not providing adequate PPE and even telling nurses to take off face masks. At that time after giving the matter a great deal of consid­er­a­tion WSNA filed a complaint with the Division of Occupa­tional Safety and Health (DOSH) of Labor and Indus­tries (L&I). That inves­ti­ga­tion is currently in process.

Next, we learned there was a PPE shortage nation­wide and CHI was rationing PPE. Mask distri­b­u­tion became controlled by manage­ment with no trans­parency of the supply. Nurses are being forced to wear PPE that was intended for one-time repeat­edly until broken, soiled or for an entire shift. This was added to our DOSH complaint.

Low Census
Fortu­nately, the number of patients antic­i­pated did not materi­alize. Unfor­tu­nately, the result has been nurses receiving huge amounts of low census. WSNA again tried to work with CHI manage­ment urging them to provide nurses pay while they were low censused during the pandemic. We also asked them to pay hazard pay to the nurses that were working because of the hazardous condi­tions they are working in due to inade­quate PPE.

Volun­tary Furloughs
CHI manage­ment refused both paying nurses for lost hours of work and hazard pay. Instead, CHI sent out notifi­ca­tion they would be offering volun­tary furloughs. WSNA along with SEIU and UFCW joined together to do what we could to improve the terms and condi­tions CHI was providing in the volun­tary furlough offer. Together the unions bargained with CHI terms which includes the following:

  • Volun­tary furloughs would be honored according to seniority.
  • Nurses will not be required to be on standby while on furlough.
  • Nurses may use PTO, annual leave, unpaid leave, or seek unemploy­ment benefit insur­ance while on furlough.
  • CHI will not contest unemploy­ment claims.
  • Medical benefits will be maintained during furlough.

WSNA has been, and is contin­uing to work hard with the hospital, local, state, and federal leaders to try and rectify the PPE situa­tion and to ensure this does not happen again in the future. We are also contin­uing to fight for hazard pay while nurses are not provided adequate PPE. If you have not signed the petition for Safe Working Condi­tions and Hazard Pay please sign the petition now.

File a Staffing Concern / Assign­ment Despite Objec­tion (ADO) Forms when you have a concern. These forms are for any kind of concern from inade­quate PPE, to staffing ratios and every­thing in between. These forms provide documen­ta­tion of what is really happening. They are reviewed by the staffing committee, have been used in DOSH complaints, and are hugely impor­tant. They are electronic and easy to do: https://​www​.wsna​.org/union/ado

More Resources
For more COVID related resources follow this link: https://​www​.wsna​.org/​n​u​r​s​i​n​g​-​p​r​a​c​t​i​c​e/covid-19

In Solidarity,
Barbara Friesen, bfriesen@wsna.org