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Nurses warn of lack of tests, safety gear and preparedness

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, March 27, 2020

By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor

SAINT PAUL — Nurse after nurse stepped to the microphone at a March 18 news conference called by the Minnesota Nurses Association to warn that nurses lack adequate safety gear to deal with COVID-19 patients and that area hospitals appear to be woefully unprepared to deal with the expected rush of patients.

“Nurses are the front line of the COVID-19 response,” said Mary Turner, MNA president and  nurse at North Memorial Hospital. She said the number one piece of equipment missing was the N95 respirator mask. “It is past time to address the concerns about added protection.”

“We are not addressing this fast enough,” warned Cliff, a nurse at United Hospital.

“We need to be better prepared and have a plan,” said a nurse from St. Joseph Hospital.

“Nurses have no idea what’s going on in their hospitals,” Turner said. “Right now we get instructed in the moment.”

Melanie, an ICU nurse at St. Joseph, said  some patients had been at the hospital for days before getting COVID-19 tests.

Outside the ICU, she said, nurses did not have training or fitting for the vital N95 masks.

“In the event a patient would test positive for COVID-19, we’re not protected,” said Randy, a nurse at Fairview Southdale Hospital.

“A big issue we’re having is finding staff are not part of the decision-making,” said Brittany, a nurse at United Hospital. “We need our voices heard so we can take care of our patients the proper way.”

“Now we have a new threat,” MNA president Mary Turner said. “It’s the nurses and the healthcare workers who are marching into battle…”

“We’ve all seen what’s happening in the news worldwide,” said nurse Kelly. “The tension in the hospital and the fear is heavy and thick.”

Turner said younger nurses are reporting, “my family members are begging me not to go to work.”

“We are prepared to do our duty,” Turner affirmed, but nurses need the government and the hospitals “to protect us, so we can do what we are called to do.”

Minnesotans step up to help

Two days following the March 18 news conference, the MNA put out a call to the public seeking donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), including new, unused N95 masks.

The response was nothing short of amazing.

Donations ranged from individuals donating a few masks to Co-op Partners Warehouse donating 3,500 particulate respirator masks to Sportsman’s Guide donating 40,000 N95 respirator masks. PPE donations also came from contractors and from local unions.

Teamsters Local 120 provided its semi-trailer truck to transport the donations.

MNA planned to coordinate distribution of the donations statewide with the State Emergency Operations Center.





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