TAMPA, Fla. — Frontline nurses from across the country are demanding action amid a rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide. Some nurses are pointing to issues with PPE and staffing while they also plead to the public for help.
National Nurses United is the country’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses with more than 170,000 members. Monday afternoon, the union shared their concerns as the pandemic enters another month.
“I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to hold this," said Consuelo Vargas, a nurse from Illinois. “We need everyone to wear a mask. It has to happen.”
Jean Ross, the union’s president, explains some nurses are still fighting for safe staffing and optimal personal protective equipment (PPE). She says there are nurses across the country pushing their hospitals to follow proper infection control measures.
“This includes not mixing COVID positive and COVID negative patients together or patients who are under investigation,” said Ross. “It includes testing all staff and patients, contact tracing, notifying staff who’ve been exposed, and having policies that allow COVID positive and exposed workers to stay home without fear of loss of pay.”
Bonnie Castillo, the union’s executive director, called on local, state, and federal leaders to stop politicizing a matter of public health, to issue mask mandates, and to take strong measures to protect the public.
Tampa Bay Area float nurse Nicole Boraski tells ABC Action News she thinks hospitals are better prepared now than they were before.
“In the beginning, of course everyone was dealing with PPE issues, but I feel like the hospitals in general really pulled together and were able to supply all those proper gear to nurses,” said Boraski. “But as far as staffing, its tough.”
Boraski has worked with COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic. She says educating nurses who don’t deal with COVID patients often is also important.
“Going into this season, we’re just looking for nurses to be able to take care of themselves, to be healthy,” said Boraski.
ABC Action News reached out to local hospitals on their readiness for a surge in COVID-19 cases. AdventHealth said they have sufficient PPE, ventilators, and specialized equipment available to quickly and safely convert existing spaces in the hospital into standard patient rooms or ICU/critical care rooms if there’s increased demand. AdventHealth also noted earlier this year, it began offering at-home patient monitoring, and it has enhanced its use of telemedicine to connect patients with physicians, lowering the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Baycare stated that it remains prepared, stating, “as a large health system, we have capacity and resources that we can shift where they are needed to respond and help care for the community. During this time, our top priority continues to remain the health and safety of our team members, patients and the community.”
Nurses ask the public to also do its part to help slow the spread.
“Please, please, please wash your hands, wear a mask,” said Boraski. “I’d rather be six feet apart than six feet under.”