- April 2, 2020
-- During testimony before the North Carolina General Assembly, leaders from the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA) offered a dire account on the state's ability to protect front line healthcare workers from catching coronavirus. NCNA President Dennis Taylor and NCNA CEO Tina Gordon spoke to the House Select Committee on COVID-10, Health Care Workgroup about major concerns that threaten the nursing and healthcare workforces along with the health and wellbeing of all North Carolinians as the coronavirus crisis grows across the state. Chief among the issues they raised were the dwindling/rationed supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), inadequate testing rates/lack of kits, and workplace requirements putting nurses and patients at risk.
"My colleagues in every part of the state are saying the same thing: we need PPE. We all know what is coming our way in the next few weeks, and the measures being taken to maximize usage simply won't cut it for much longer, and that puts nurses and other healthcare workers in immediate risk," Taylor said. "We are going to start running out of options soon and that will force nurses to make life-threatening decisions that nobody should have to face. We need help and we need it fast."
Taylor and Gordon shared the results of an NCNA member survey with legislators. While not a scientific survey, the results paint a stark picture of the alarm being raised by nurses throughout the state about their ability to safely care for patients. Of the 354 nurses who responded, 59.9% said their facility already has a shortage of PPE and 21.2% said they were unsure; only 20.6% said their facility has the supplies it needs right now. Many respondents said their workplaces are doing the best they can with the supplies they have, but it is not adequate.
"The only good news we have to report right now is that the number of hospitalizations has not reached a crisis level quite yet," Gordon said. "The window of opportunity to prepare for that inevitability is closing fast, though, and we need to be able to get our nurses these vital supplies before that wave of patients hits hospitals."
Taylor and Gordon presented a list of recommendations to legislators (https://www.ncleg.gov/documentsites/committees/house2019-...
· Aggressively supporting "stay-at-home"
orders to help prevent the state's healthcare system from being overwhelmed
· Aggressive support of federal utilization of the Defense Protection Act to immediately address PPE shortages
· Provisions allowing maximum flexibility for of the nursing workforce, including temporary policies to encourage volunteering, to address impending shortages
· Support for nurses ensuring all appropriate assistance necessary in the event of sickness due to contracting the coronavirus themselves or layoffs, furloughs, or other work reductions