Common Dreams - April 1, 2020
"It's a pathetic joke. Hero worship is society's way of justifying the egregious treatment and scandalous circumstances that we're faced with."
Nurses are the canaries in the coal mine. We can sing from our cages about the impending catastrophic damage, but the miners aren't listening, they are too frightened, arguing with each over useless accounts of who is to blame for the toxic gases filling their lungs. Unless we take collective action and force accountability upon those in power, unless we realize that it is our right to demand our profession's values be respected regardless of the political circumstances, unless we work together to unlock each other's individual cages, our warnings will be in vain.
You deserve to know the truth: healthcare workers are falling ill by the thousands, some are dying, an unknown number are in critical condition, and there are no tests. Hospitals aren't testing their workers unless they have obvious symptoms, but we all know that sources of infection aren't limited to those of us who seek care in emergency rooms. Hospitals should be testing all of their workers in order to understand how to control infection within their facility- and the White House regularly broadcasts support of this strategy by relaying the message that "everyone who needs a test will get a test" yet the opposite is happening: we are spreading the virus throughout our healthcare systems, within our families and communities.
There are no official statistics on the number of nurses who have been tested or who have become ill with Covid-19. This information is not publicized. The media doesn’t want you keeping track of the hundreds or thousands of healthcare providers in your state who have become ill. There are no regulators or advocacy organizations, unions or politicians acting on our behalf. We can make calls and file complaints with OSHA, the BON, the Joint Commission, the USDOL to no avail, we can write letters and send emails to our mayors, governors, representatives, and healthcare executives until the entire system collapses. And then what?
We have patients who contract Covid-19 while in the hospital, including pregnant and laboring women, and we don't know the source of their infections. Hospitals face no penalty for this, unlike all other hospital acquired infections which are monitored and tracked by the federal government as a way of enforcing a federal standard of what is an unacceptable consequence of hospital care. Regulators impose no fines, no penalties, no legislation on healthcare organizations who clearly violate these basic safety standards, and instead they change their regulations to support the unsafe practices while employee health and HR departments tell workers who contract the virus as a result of their occupational exposure that it's an unprovable and unsubstantiated claim.
We have families of front line workers falling ill with no way to verify their infection status. We have nurses being told to report to work with symptoms, being denied tests, and then being told that they can't get paid time off until they get a positive result on a test. We have nurses being told that they can't wear a mask while in the facility because it "looks bad," and we have nurses who are in their sixties and those with pre-existing health conditions who are being told by their management that they have no choice but to accept an unsafe work assignment, caring for positive covid patients without proper protective equipment, or else their license will be revoked. We have nurses that are being harassed and threatened with disciplinary action after they desperately post on social media about the lack of PPE. We have nurses who have been fired and made an example for blowing the whistle and highlighting the dire problems that we all face as a result of many systemic failures in our government and healthcare system. ...
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