Pennsylvania nurses union says hospitals are hoarding PPE, not protecting healthcare workers

Pennsylvania's largest nurses' union is accusing hospitals of misrepresenting their supply of personal protective equipment and says its healthcare workers are inadequately protected.

In a May 12 letter to the state health department, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals claim the union heard from elected officials "that they are being told by the DOH and the [Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania] that hospitals have an appropriate supply of PPE." 

But many officials "are surprised to learn about the extreme rationing of PPE supplies that healthcare professionals still have to endure in their facilities," wrote Mark Warshaw, co-executive director for the union.

Mr. Warshaw said hospitals "have resorted to severe rationing of PPE declaring they are in crisis mode, which allows them to abandon long-held infection control standards," and the union believes the state health department "is being misinformed about the situation on the ground from hospitals."

"It's not about the quantity of PPE locked away in a closet, but whether the hospitals are handing out the PPE to staff," he said.

The union's letter comes as some Pennsylvania hospitals prepare to resume elective procedures.

A spokesperson for the state health department told TV station WITF the department's secretary "appreciates the concerns raised in this letter," but did not respond to whether officials were being misinformed.

In a statement provided to Becker's Hospital Review, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania said hospitals received shipments of PPE early in the pandemic, and "while we have seen some improvements in the supply chain, some areas remain under strain as additional cases continue to spread and the wider global market supply continues to trail demand."

The association said hospitals default to their mutual aid agreements to share supplies when they experience challenges in securing PPE, and based on data and reporting systems used by the group, most facilities are expecting depletion within four to seven days. 

"Even as hospitals resume providing medically necessary scheduled services for patients, hospitals require a lot more PPE now than before COVID-19; and PPE challenges may persist, the association added. "CDC guidance provides strategies for hospitals to maintain appropriate PPE levels and protect staff, patients, and the communities they serve. These CDC conservation strategies are clearly providing for a different PPE usage than before the beginning of the crisis, but the CDC has determined they adequately protect patient and staff."


More articles on human resources:
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Judge dismisses union lawsuit against Montefiore over working conditions

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