Nurses from Albany Medical Center assembled in front of the hospital on Sunday to highlight conditions they say may threaten nurse and patient safety, ahead of an anticipated second wave of COVID-19.
With an eye on COVID-19 trending upward since August, the nurses say they are alarmed over what they characterize as a "continued lack of preparations and safety protocols at Albany Med." The nurses say emergency department patients are often lined up in hallways, instead of being tested and cohorted in negative pressure rooms to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
Upstate political director for the New York State Nurses Association Corey Ellis, also the president of the Albany Common Council, says the time is now to prepare for an expected COVID-19 surge.
"When we had the first pandemic we saw things that didn't happen swiftly. Hospital administration would say one thing to the media, but our underground nurses knew what was really going on. So we want them to have a collaboration with the nurse son the ground doing the day-to-day patient care to make sure they protect themselves as well as the patients."
ICU Nurse Jennifer Bejo says single-use N95 respirators are being “decontaminated” for reuse at AMC.
"They're sterilizing it. OK, like, you know, yeah, you understand and, you know, sterilizing at that, but, you know, it does not, it totally contradicts the manufacturer's like, you know, recommendation that you know, it's a one-time use like massage should be like one time use."
Ellis says the nurses have come up with a five-point plan they would like Albany Med and other hospitals around the state to institute.
"One, environmental controls that will save lives, stopping COVID from spreading outside of our hospital doors, that is Albany Medical Center establishing a command center hotline that would help to rid that. Albany Med would implement accurate diagnosive testing for all patients and visitors. Third, the need for the highest PPE standards, and no longer we're not looking to be reusing our PPE's. What happened last time, we wanna make sure that this hospital will abide by the highest COVID PPE standards. Also, listen to our nurses this time around. And listening to the nurse will prevent the burnout that occurs during a pandemic such as this. And we also would like more transparency and more collaboration with our nurses. And I know some of the news media continues, the hospital will say 'we are talking to our nurses,' No, they're talking to nurse managers. They're not talking to nurses who are on the floor day to day dealing with patients."
Reverend Peter Cook is with the New York State Council of Churches:
"It's disturbing to us that our nurses are being treated so shabbily. And we need the administration at Albany Medical Center to sit down with the nurses and get them a contract and to engage them in COVID prevention, not through their nurse managers, but directly with the nurses".
Black Nurses Coalition CEO Dr. Brenda Robinson addressed the gathering, holding the hospital's feet to the fire:
"How about responsibility does that work? How about accountability? How about realizing nurses have a human right to safety and health and that does not stop at the door of Albany Med."
Albany Med responded to a request for comment by email, saying:
"The health and safety of our patients, students and staff remain Albany Med’s top priorities. We continue adhering to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding all safety measures, and we do so in close collaboration with our colleagues. We are prepared to care for all members of our community regardless of their needs, as we have been since the start of the pandemic, as we have done for 181 years."
Robinson tells WAMC the hospital simply needs to step up.
"PPE is very important. The present treatment that nurses have received in regards to trying to be safe are just unacceptable and we have to come together and speak up and support them in getting what they need."