A handful of nurses in California were suspended for refusing to treat patients infected with coronavirus after not being issued N95 respirator masks.
Mike Gulick, a nurse at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, in Santa Monica, California, told The Associated Press administrators at the hospital told staff that the personal protective equipment was not necessary and did not provide it.
But last week, a nurse who works in Gulick’s ward tested positive for coronavirus.
Angela Gatdula was diagnosed with coronavirus. She told the AP that while doctors wore N95 masks, which filter out 95% of particles from the air, nurses were told by hospital managers that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said surgical masks were protection enough for nurses.
The CDC did say if masks are unavailable, then people could use bandannas, the AP reported.
The day after the positive test, doctors who were doing rounds asked why the nursing staff wasn’t wearing N95 masks and told them they needed the protection.
When the doctors told Gulick and his coworkers that, they told their managers they refused to go into the rooms of COVID-19 patients without N95 masks. The National Nurses Union, the group that represents the Gulick and the nine other nurses who stood with him, said the hospital suspended the nurses, the AP reported.
All 10 are being paid, but until a human resources investigation is completed, they cannot return to work.
St, John’s Health Center administrators said they’ve provided N95 masks to workers caring for COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday. The hospital has increased its supply and is disinfecting masks every day.
Gulick and the staff at St. John’s Health Center are not alone.
The AP reported there are doctors, nurses and other health care workers in the United States who have been asked to work without PPE.
Their response runs from protests to formal complaints to either making or buying their own masks and other supplies.
At least 9,200 health care workers have been infected with coronavirus by Wednesday, the AP reported.