'We're expendable': Michigan nurses say PPE still stretched thin, staffing shortages affecting care

Many nurses at Michigan hospitals say some personal protective equipment is still in short supply and inadequate staffing is hindering best care practices, reports CW affiliate WWMT.

Nurses at more than half a dozen Michigan hospitals told WWMT that access to N95 masks is still very limited.

"We get one mask per day for COVID patients and then we get one mask per day for regular patient care," said Jamie Brown, RN, critical care nurse at Kalamazoo-based Ascension Borgess Hospital and president of the Michigan Nurses Association.

In summer 2020, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration implemented a program to boost medical personnel's access to PPE, which Ms. Brown said added accountability, but still isn't sufficient.

Ms. Brown said hospitals across the state are experiencing staffing shortages, lack of preemptive COVID-19 testing and limited PPE, affecting the safety of nurses and patients alike.

"It just goes to show you how the hospitals view their front-line workers, and we're expendable employees," Ms. Brown told WWMT.  

"The health and safety of our patients and associates remain our top priorities," a spokesperson for Ascension Borgess Hospital said in a statement cited by WWMT. "We have no issues with PPE and continue to take proactive steps with our distributors and suppliers to ensure access to personal protective equipment and supplies, as we have throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We are experiencing the same staffing challenges that are impacting our national industry, but our associates are strong and determined, and continue to safely fulfill our mission of caring for those most in need."

Michigan has a shortage of more than 7,000 nurses, a number experts believe has risen amid the pandemic, according to state reports cited by WWMT.

"We've got a lot of nurses looking at their career choice right now because this is not why we got into nursing," Ms. Brown said.


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