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McLaren Flint nurses speak out against working conditions during pandemic

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FLINT (WJRT) - (04/15/20) - Members of the McLaren Flint Registered Nurses Union are publicly speaking out about hospital working conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the hospital has responded to their claims.

It is an emotionally charged time for the health care workers who are dealing with two deaths of co-workers just days apart.

In a statement to ABC12 News, union president Kelly Indish calls out the hospital by highlighting excerpts from a series of emails.

“3/26/20 our nurses received an email that states ‘continue to use N-95 respirator for 7 calendar days. Replace the respirator only if its visibly soiled,’” Indish said.

Progressive care nurse Justin Arnold told ABC12 he purchased his own mask and isolation gowns.

"You have days where it's on your face for 12 hours at a time,” Arnold said.

Although he appreciates the scrubs provided by the hospital, he says he wishes disposable PPE wasn’t such an issue.

"We're very thankful for hospital issued scrubs right now but it would be so nice to throwaway the disposable PPE after each use. It would just be so nice to make sure you're not worried about your mask falling apart and trying to track down the coordinator to get a new one,” Arnold said.

The PPE concerns extend to isolation gowns as well.

“4/13/20 our nurses received an email that states ‘While McLaren is fortunate to receive a steady supply of gowns the supply is not adequate to change gowns after every patient encounter.’ This email also goes on to say ‘Wear the gown and keep it on while moving between rooms of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients.’ The local has contacted a supplier for further gowns although we were informed that McLaren Hospital had an adequate supply and was not interested in purchasing,” Indish said.

In a statement to ABC12, McLaren explained what changes it’s implemented and how what guidelines it’s followed concerning PPE.

“Since the {CDC} guidelines changed rapidly during the onset of COVID-19, we created a 24/7 PPE Manager whose sole responsibility is to ensure our team members have the proper PPE and are adhering to the latest state and federal safety guidelines,” the statement reads.

The nurses claims don’t stop with concerns over PPE. They say they’re “bleeding for critical care nurses to care for your loved ones” and point to the need for more training. Arnold said he knows what it’s like to have to fill the role of an ICU nurse.

"I had an instance where I had an ICU level patient who had orders for ICU bed but we didn't have the space, so I took care of that patient for multiple days in a row,” Arnold said. "We're busy. We're overrun. We're short staffed at the moment in these areas, you know, the COVID care. We’re burning the candle at both ends it feels like."

McLaren, however, talks about the additions there to assist doctors and nurses with COVID-19 patients.

“We have added additional physicians – pulmonologist, hospitalists, and others – on the units caring for coronavirus patients to supplement the traditional care team,” according to the statement.

Indish also points out that reimbursement for mileage of home care nurses has been decreased while other area hospitals are providing added incentives.

You can read both statements here:

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Guest Monday, 13 July 2020