Nurses union sends cease and desist letter to HCA rejecting new N95 respirator protocols

The union representing nurses at HCA Healthcare facilities across Florida claims new protocols are weakening protections for workers against COVID-19.

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East said Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA, which operates dozens of Florida hospitals, established new protocols stating that as of April 13 a protective N95 respirator will only be provided to workers performing the most severe "aerosol-generating procedures, such as intubation, nebulization, bronchoscopy or suctioning" of COVID-positive and COVID-possible patients, and other workers "providing all other procedures on these patients may only utilize a less-protective mask." Previous protocols called for all workers to be provided protective N95 respirators while they provided a wider range of care to these patients, according to the union.

"These reduced standards are a giant step backward when we’re learning of increased dangers about COVID-19 every day," RN and 1199SEIU member Pat Diaz said in a news release. "Under these new protocols, we will have much more risk to contract the virus ourselves because we'll be wearing inferior protection while providing care to patients who are sick and/or highly contagious with a deadly condition."

The union has sent a cease and desist letter to HCA calling on the for-profit hospital operator to reverse the change in procedures.

In an emailed statement, HCA East Florida told WPTV it's existing supplies of PPE are adequate, and it is "doing everything we can to equip our patient care teams to provide safe, effective care during this unprecedented crisis."

HCA said the union also "fails to recognize the reality all hospitals nationwide are facing, that this pandemic has strained the worldwide supply of personal protective equipment, including masks, face shields and gowns."



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