By Ethan A. Huff, contributing writer to Natural News
Close to 20,000 California nurses walked off the job on Tuesday in protest of working conditions that they and their union say are inadequate for protecting against Ebola. Reuters reports that the two-day strike occurred at 86 hospitals and clinics operated by Kaiser Permanente, as well as two hospitals run by other healthcare providers in the northern part of the state.
National Nurses United (NNU) says existing protection protocols are inadequate and put healthcare workers at risk of contracting the deadly virus. On behalf of the nurses, NNU is pushing for better staffing, improved safety equipment and a clearer focus on staff training that deals with serious infectious diseases such as Ebola.
“Inadequate preparedness for Ebola symbolizes the erosion of patient care standards generally,” NNU spokesman Charles Idelson told the media. “We have a lot of patient care issues that we have presented to them that they have stonewalled and ignored.”
According to the San Jose Mercury News, additional concerns were voiced during a series of street protests attended by thousands of union members who gathered in front of medical centers throughout the region. With bullhorns and signs in hand, protesters bemoaned chronic staffing shortages and patient admission and discharge problems that they say affect all areas of healthcare.
“Kaiser Permanente needs to realize that we are very strong and the only reason we are out here is for our patients,” claimed Cathy Davis, a registered nurse who participated in the strike, to ABC Fresno (as reported by RT.com).
“We’ve also had an influx of patients from the Affordable Care Act to where we are seeing more patients, that are sicker patients for our population, and for that we’d like to have more staffing. We’d like to have the proper equipment to take care of these sicker patients, and right now Kaiser is not providing that equipment.”
100,000 Nurses in 15 States and DC Strike Day After
On Wednesday, a much larger nationwide strike by NNU included 100,000 nurses from 15 states and the District of Columbia who walked out on complaints that their facilities are ill-equipped to deal with Ebola. The 20,000 nurses from the day before joined in on this national day of action.
During the walkouts, Kaiser brought in traveling nurses and other stand-ins to take the union nurses’ places. Kaiser maintains that it has been preparing for Ebola since October, and that the concerns being raised are invalid. All staff members who would normally be a patient’s first contact, says the group, have been professionally trained to identify and isolate possible Ebola carriers.
Kaiser says it is “perplexed” as to why the nurses even went on strike, claiming that all Kaiser hospitals are “well prepared” to deal with an Ebola crisis. The healthcare group also claims that once Kaiser started implementing Ebola measures, NNU simply changed its protest message to being about “staffing” rather than Ebola.
But NNU disagrees.
“Nurses, who have been willing to stand by the patients whether it’s the flu, whether it’s Ebola, whether it’s cancer, are now being asked to put themselves in harm’s way unprotected, unguarded,” added NNU executive director Rose Ann DeMoro during a recent press conference.