National day of action: Nurses lobby for more workplace protection amid coronavirus

Nurses across the country took part in a national day of action March 11 to protest the responses of hospitals and government to the new coronavirus pandemic.

Members of National Nurses United held rallies, news conferences and solidarity actions to call for more ways to protect themselves on the front lines of the coronavirus battle, the union said.

Some facilities in the U.S. are telling nurses to continue their working while asymptomatic, even though they've been exposed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus,  the union said. And testing at hospitals has been infrequent, they've complained.

"If nurses and healthcare workers aren't protected, that means patients and the public are not protected," said Bonnie Castillo, RN and executive director of National Nurses United. "This is a major public health crisis of unknown proportions. Now is not the time to be weakening our standards and protections or cutting corners. Now is the time we should be stepping up our efforts."

Chicago nurses were among the healthcare workers participating in the day of action. They planned a vigil at Stroger Hospital to mourn COVID-19 victims and call on hospital management "to step up their efforts to protect the staff and patients," Falguni Dave, a charge nurse at the hospital, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Deb Song, spokesperson for Cook County Health, which operates Stroger, told the Sun-Times officials are taking the nurses' concerns "very seriously" and keeping staff and patient safety at top of mind.

"Our staff has direct access to our infection control team, and that department has trained and made themselves completely available to every department at Cook County Health from the clinical staff all the way down to environmental services," she said.

Employees who come into contact with COVID-19 patients have also received instructions about wearing personal protection equipment, Ms. Song said.

California and Georgia hospitals also participated in the day of action. View a complete list of events here.


More articles on workforce issues:

Amazon eases attendance policy for employees amid coronavirus
5 OSHA tips on protecting hospital workers from coronavirus
Hospital job growth slowed in February

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