CANTON, Mass., Jan. 20, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- In a letter sent on Thursday morning to Gov. Charlie Baker, the Massachusetts Nurses Association asked the governor to take immediate action to safeguard frontline caregivers, patients and communities during the current COVID-19 surge by instituting a State of Emergency through the end of March 2022 and addressing issues ranging from hospital visitor policies and N95 masking to quarantine procedures and school nurse resources.
Two years into the pandemic, the omicron variant is spiking COVID-19 infections, driving increases in hospitalizations, and worsening pre-existing, profit-centered healthcare industry staffing practices, Katie Murphy, practicing ICU nurse and President of the MNA, wrote in the letter on behalf of 23,000 MNA nurses and healthcare professionals across the Commonwealth.
"Two years into this pandemic, we are now at a place we all feared. Healthcare workers are overwhelmed and burned out," Murphy wrote in the letter. "Healthcare facilities are overrun with both COVID-19 patients and those individuals who delayed care throughout the pandemic, and the system is buckling under the pressure. We are closer than we have ever been to the collapse of the healthcare system.
"It must be recognized that this current staffing crisis has been years in the making, as hospital administrators have implemented policies that drove tens of thousands of qualified staff away from hospital nursing as a result of strategic efforts to understaff hospitals to generate greater operating margins," Murphy wrote. "The pandemic has only exacerbated this situation and demonstrated the systemic lack of understanding and appreciation of the role and value of those providing direct patient care."
The New York Times, in an opinion video published on January 19, exposes the hospital industry's longstanding practice of understaffing nurses to drive profits at the expense of patient safety. The video features MNA local leaders Marlena Pellegrino, RN at St. Vincent Hospital, and Kerry Noonan, RN at Brigham and Women's Hospital. It clearly outlines the case for safe patient limits and describes how the hospital industry has spent tens of millions of dollars on misinformation campaigns to thwart attempts to ensure safe staffing levels.
"The pandemic arrived with many people having great hope for reform on many fronts, including the nursing industry, but much of that optimism seems to have faded. In the Opinion Video above, nurses set the record straight about the root cause of the nursing crisis: chronic understaffing by profit-driven hospitals that predates the pandemic," the New York Times opinion staff write in an accompanying essay.
The MNA's January 20 letter to Gov. Baker is a successor to the series of letters the MNA sent the governor in 2020 calling for statewide standards to ensure the safety of patients, nurses, healthcare professionals and communities during the initial phase of the pandemic. The common theme connecting all the MNA's messages is that those providing direct patient care must be heard and included as part of any COVID-19 decision-making process.
"Our healthcare system and the workers that sustain it are being tested as never before," Murphy wrote in the letter Thursday to Gov. Baker. "As the pandemic evolves, more action is needed. We must ensure that best interests of patients and frontline healthcare personnel are guiding our decisions. We look forward to continuing to work with you and your administration to address these challenges."
List of MNA COVID-19 Recommendations
Declare a State of Emergency like that declared in March 2020, effective through the end of March 2022.
1. Reinstate temporary expedited licensure for out-of-state nurses.
2. Reinstate liability protection for healthcare workers working outside their area of practice.
3. Impose stricter visitor policies at hospitals across the state- including restrictions and PPE enforcement.
4. Require that all staff interacting with patients be provided with new N95 masks upon request.
5. Provide onsite testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic employees. Healthcare staff should not have to seek testing offsite. Hospitals have access to tests and the capacity to test.
6. Provide onsite booster shots for healthcare staff.
7. Return to previous quarantine procedures for COVID positive healthcare workers.
8. Provide additional support for school nurses.
9. Repeal the regulations regarding travel nurses which have further destabilized the nursing workforce.
10. Support a local manufacturing base for domestic production of PPE.
11. Include the voices of those on the frontlines.
12. Re-establish procedures (tents outside EDs) to reduce COVID exposure.
13. Increase the use of the National Guard.
14. Utilize all healthcare staff for the delivery of direct patient care (including managers and administrators).
Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.
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SOURCE Massachusetts Nurses Association