Nurses concerned they aren’t prepared for Ebola in hospitals

Nurses are concerned after Texas healthcare worker showed symptoms of the virus

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – As the Centers for Disease Control investigates how a healthcare provider in Texas was infected with Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who died from the virus on Wednesday, National Nurses United is demanding more training and protective equipment in hospitals.

According to their website, National Nurses United is a nurses’ union and professional organization of registered nurses and health professionals nationwide. The Massachusetts branch is known as the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 22News contacted the MNA Communications Director, David Schildmeier to find out how concerned the nurses he represents are about getting infected while they work.

In a phone interview, Schildmeier said, in part, “There has been no coordinated training, there has been, almost every hospital doesn’t have hazmat suits for nurses, doesn’t have the right protective material for the nurses and more globally, we don’t have a universal plan.” He said he would like the CDC or the Department of Public Health to better train nurses at all hospitals in the same way. He also would like every hospital to run drills so they know what to do if a patient with Ebola is admitted.

22News talked with Governor Deval Patrick during his visit to Springfield Monday. We asked if he felt hospitals in Massachusetts are well equipped to care for, and protect people against, Ebola.

“I respect the MNA. I know what they’ve been saying, but in fact, the CDC has issued those guidelines. Those guidelines have been distributed by the DPH broadly in the Commonwealth,” Governor Patrick told 22News.

Despite the nurses’ concerns, infectious disease specialists at Baystate Medical Center and other hospitals in Western Massachusetts have told 22News they have procedures in place and isolation areas set up. At Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, doctors and nurses have instructions for anyone showing symptoms of Ebola.

Schildmeier told 22News the MNA represents 70% of nurses in the Commonwealth, including nurses at Cooley Dickinson and Baystate Franklin Medical Center. However, they do not represent nurses at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

BMC’s Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, Nancy Shendell-Falik, RN, sent 22News a statement saying:

“For the past several weeks we have been engaged in planning and preparation across Baystate Health for the unlikely possibility that a patient may present at one of our facilities with possible Ebola symptoms. We have provided informational and material resources to our caregivers in as many ways as possible, including 1:1 education and a section of our internal website devoted to Ebola information.

We have also been in close contact with the Mass. Department of Public Health and our fellow health providers to ensure we are as informed and prepared as we can be. This work continues every day. We want to again reassure our community that, while it is quite unlikely that we will have an Ebola patient here in western Massachusetts, we are ready to care for any possible cases, and we have the utmost confidence in our caregivers’ ability to deal safely and appropriately with any such health concern.”

Both doctors and state officials still believe that despite a few Ebola scares in the state, the virus will not be a problem in Massachusetts.

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