National Nurses United, a union and professional organization with 185,000 members, was contacted by nurses at the Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas where Thomas Eric Duncan was treated for Ebola.
The nurses criticized the hospital administration for not having a protocol in place to deal with this virulent disease, for not training or preparing them to deal with Ebola patients, and for not protecting health care workers from getting sick.
The NNU has publicly defended the two health care workers, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who have been stricken by Ebola. The organization has praised nurses who have castigated the hospital’s actions in the crisis, including Brianna Aguirre, a courageous whistleblower and sole family breadwinner, who could face reprisals because the hospital’s nursing staff is not unionized and, therefore, has no union protection.
The NNU has issued a petition to “Tell President Obama and Congress to protect health care workers, patients and the public from Ebola.” It can be read in full and signed at the NNU website (tinyurl.com/kzsgj3z), where there are additional statements about this health crisis.
The petition reads, “On behalf of registered nurses and other health care workers across the United States, we understand that the only way to adequately confront the Ebola crisis, that the World Health Organization has termed the most significant health crisis in modern history, is for the [U.S.] President to invoke his executive authority to mandate uniform, national standards and protocols that all hospitals must follow to safely protect patients, registered nurses, other front-line health care workers, and the public.
“Every health care employer must be directed to follow the Precautionary Principle and institute optimal protocols and personal protective equipment for Ebola that meets the highest standards used by Nebraska Medical Center, or a higher standard.”
These protocols include full-body hazmat suits; powered air-purifying respirators; at least two registered nurses caring for each Ebola patient, with more nurses as needed; and continuous interactive and updated training of nurses, especially those where “state-of-the-art disease containment is occurring.”
The petition emphasizes, “The Ebola pandemic and the exposure of health care workers to the virus represent a clear and present danger to public health. … [W]ithout these mandates to health care facilities, we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other health care workers at extreme risk. They are our first line of defense.”
It concludes: “[N]ot one more patient, nurse, or health care worker should be put at risk due to a lack of health care facility preparedness,” and nothing short of a presidential mandate, where “optimal safety standards apply, will be acceptable to the nurses of this nation. We demand protection for all health care workers.”