Nurses allege that U.S. hospitals don't have basic infection control and prevention measures in place as they face another surge of COVID-19 cases, this time during flu season.
In a recent survey, National Nurses United, a nationwide union of registered nurses, found that only 18% of nurses worked in hospitals where there was surge capacity planning and preparation.
"Hospitals are continuing to fail when it comes to preparation for COVID-19, even as flu season begins," NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse, said in a prepared statement. "They have had nearly a year to get their act together. We should not still be operating under crisis standards of care. Their lack of preparation means they are knowingly sacrificing the lives of nurses and other health care workers."
The survey found that nurses aren't being tested for COVID-19, aren't being notified immediately when they're exposed to the virus, don't have enough personal protective equipment and are dealing with unsafe staffing levels. Nurses also say their mental health has been affected by the pandemic.
From the survey:
- Seventeen percent of hospital RNs say there is universal PPE use in their emergency departments.
- Less than 9% of hospital nurses say there are plans to triage patients with respiratory symptoms outdoors.
- Twenty percent of nurses and 27% of hospital nurses say that all patients are screened for respiratory problems before admission.
- Twelve percent of nurses say their employer has increased PPE supply in preparation for a COVID-19 surge during flu season.
- Eleven percent of nurses say they received training on recognizing respiratory infections.
The survey was completed Oct. 16 to Nov. 9 and involved unionized and nonunion nurses in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and two U.S. territories.
The flu season hits as COVID-19 cases are surging across the U.S. In the past week, there have been 883,827 COVID-19 cases in the country, a number that has been rising by about 100,000 cases per day, according to the CDC.
"Cases are at record highs across the country, and with the holidays quickly approaching, each of us must do everything possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Failing to do our part will prolong the suffering and disruption to our lives, and inevitably lead to more deaths of our friends, neighbors and loved ones," said American Medical Association President Dr. Susan Bailey.
The AMA said physicians are concerned about the latest spike in cases coinciding with flu season and how that will affect PPE shortages, tests and testing supplies and hospitals' intensive care unit capacity.