US nurses slam ‘disturbing’ lack of virus preparation at hospitals

A survey of nurses reveal only 29% said there was a plan to isolate potential infections where they work. (AP pic)

LOS ANGELES: The largest nursing union in the US denounced Thursday the “disturbing” lack of preparation at many hospitals and clinics in the face of the deadly new coronavirus outbreak.

Nurses are working without necessary personal protective equipment and lack education and training for handling the disease, said National Nurses United director Bonnie Castillo.

“As of today more than 80 of our nurse members have been in quarantine,” she said at a press conference in California held by the union, which claims 150,000 members.

“It is not a successful strategy to leave nurses and other health workers unprotected.”

The NNU began a national survey last month, to which more than 6,500 nurses have responded.

The results were “truly disturbing”, said Jane Thomason, a hygiene specialist with the union.

“They show that a large percentage of our nation’s hospitals are unprepared to safely handle Covid-19.”

Only 29% of survey responders said there was a plan in place to isolate potentially infected patients at their workplaces.

“23% report they don’t even know if there is a plan in place,” she added.

Over a third did not have access to protective masks, and half had not received any information on the novel coronavirus from employers, Thomason added.

She slammed the US government’s handling of the outbreak which she said had not always involved taking the greatest possible precautions.

“Sadly, our federal government agencies have not followed this principle in their approach to containing this virus,” she said.

“Now we are reactive when we could have months ago been proactive.”

Reports that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was lowering its minimal equipment guidance for nurses – from respirators to basic surgical masks – were a particular concern, she said.

“Now is not the time for weakening guidance,” Thomason concluded.