News Release: National Nurses Organization Committee/National Nurses United
To protest the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health care workers and the dangerously inadequate staffing levels at VA hospitals during this COVID-19 pandemic, registered nurses at the Brooklyn VA are holding an action during their evening shift change this Monday, April 6, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) today.
Due to short staffing, RNs in the Brooklyn VA intensive care unit are caring for as many as five COVID-19 patients at one time while the standard of care is usually a maximum of two ICU patients to one RN, or even a maximum of one, depending on patient acuity.
“We are only able to provide the very basic level of care and it’s just subpar care to the patients with a five-to-one ratio,” said Maria Lobifaro, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit and a union steward. Lobifaro said she had to object when she was pressured by management to care for a sixth intubated patient on a recent shift. “We are already working under such terrible conditions, dangerous conditions. There has to be a time when we say enough is enough. We need more RNs now.”
“What we are seeing in the Brooklyn VA is an absolute travesty,” said Corey Lanham, the VA Division Director for NNOC/NNU. “We have ICU nurses who are caring for five intubated patients at one time. These five patients are completely dependent on the RNs to assess their condition and ensure they have the oxygen levels necessary to survive, as well as to administer medications that are specifically prescribed for each patient that must be adjusted as the patient’s condition changes. In addition, these nurses must turn these patients and clean these patients as they are unable to turn or clean themselves. Despite these conditions, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has not sent urgently needed staffing help to New York City.”
What: Shift change action and RN media availability
Who: RN members of National Nurses United and concerned veterans
Where: 800 Poly Place, Brooklyn, New York (Outside Gates of Main Entrance)
When: Monday, April 6, 6:45 p.m. ET
NNOC/NNU is calling on President Trump to immediately exercise full executive powers under the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of N95 respirator masks and other critical personal protective equipment and to ensure the immediate and continued distribution of this equipment to nurses and other health care workers on the front lines.
Furthermore, NNOC/NNU is calling on the VA to immediately deploy properly trained RNs to the Brooklyn VA and other VA facilities to assist in caring for critically ill patients in units that are dangerously short staffed.
Lanham warns, “If Secretary Wilkie and the VA administration fail to provide the necessary staffing and personal protective equipment to the Brooklyn VA, and to other VA facilities around the country, we fear will see unnecessary deaths of both veterans and civilian patients, as well as our registered nurses and other health care workers.”
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