Mass General Brigham nurses say crowding on hospital's shuttles endangers their health

Mass General Brigham nurses at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston are calling on the hospital to improve the safety of its shuttle buses by enforcing a capacity limit for nurses and other staff members.  

Healthcare workers use shuttle buses between shifts to get from the hospital to remote parking lots.

But the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which represents Brigham nurses, said the shuttles during the COVID-19 pandemic are unsafe and that the hospital has refused to implement a 50 percent capacity limit that would reduce the risk of exposure to nurses and patients. 

"Crowded shuttles are completely unnecessary and are placing Brigham nurses at higher risk for COVID-19 exposure while we try to safely care for patients," Trish Powers, Brigham operating room RN and chair of the MNA bargaining committee at the hospital, said in a news release. "The hospital is telling the public it is doing everything to keep patients, families and staff safe but will not even commit to a basic social-distancing standard. Nurses jammed into shuttles, crowding each other as they ride across the city, is an avoidable and unacceptable danger to the safety of nurses and patients."

While the union describes workers crowding onto shuttles and nearly empty shuttles pulling up right afterward, a hospital spokesperson noted to the Boston Business Journal that staff at stops don't communicate when the next shuttle is arriving.

Regarding capacity, Erica Shenoy, MD, PhD, associate chief of the Massachusetts General Hospital infection control unit, said: "Shuttles for the most part run at 50 percent capacity or less.  At peak hours, the crosstown route has occasionally exceeded 50 percent capacity with a new shuttle arriving every five to seven minutes."

Dr. Shenoy said Mass General Brigham is strictly enforcing proper masking and hand hygiene policies on buses, and ridership will not exceed the number of seats. Riders are required to wear face masks and perform hand hygiene when they get on and off the shuttle, she said.

 

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