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MNA raising concerns about healthcare working conditions

Ryan Juntti
Updated: April 01, 2020 11:09 PM

As the shortage of N-95 masks continues for healthcare workers across the country, the Minnesota Nurses Association is raising concerns about how the lack of masks are putting healthcare workers and patients at risk in Minnesota hospitals.

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MNA says they have "grave concerns" about working conditions at hospitals all around the state, not just Essentia or St. Luke's.

"Our concern is, and always has been the welfare of our nurses and the welfare of our patients,” said MNA St. Luke’s Bargaining Unit Co-Chair Pete Boyechko, who is also a registered nurse at St. Luke's.

Boyechko says without an N-95 mask, both nurses and patients are at risk.

MNA sent letters to many hospitals across the state, outlining how they feel administration has not taken steps to protect workers and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our stance as MNA as a whole, and then personally is that we should be equipped to the highest level of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), not the minimum that’s available,” Boyechko said.

Boyechko says he understands there is a nationwide shortage of N-95 masks right now, however, he feels St. Luke's where he works could have done more to prepare for the pandemic.

“As soon as we started to see indications that this was person-to-person transmitted, we should’ve been on top of this for PPE and ordering this as soon as possible," said Boyechko.

In response, St. Luke's CEO Kevin Nokels wrote an emailed statement: "We are always committed to protecting our staff and providing the safest possible work environment. We are closely following the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. We are also providing frequent communication and education regarding the proper use of PPE, to ensure all of our employees know when and how to use it.

The worldwide shortage of PPE is a real as manufacturers cannot keep pace with the demand given the extreme use of PPE during this time. St. Luke’s has been successfully working for months to secure supplies and equipment from traditional and non-traditional sources. In addition, the outpouring of community support with innovative efforts to fulfill our needs through donations and local manufacturing of critical PPE has been incredible. We appreciate it greatly."

An MNA spokesperson says Essentia was also sent the same letter, but details about their operations aren't known at this time.

Boyechko says right now employees at St. Luke's are also required to use their personal time if they are infected with COVID-19 while at the workplace.  

"We have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 within our hospital system, so we do have employees that are on leave right now that are quarantined," Boyechko says. "We think that they shouldn't have to be going into their vacation time, or their sick time, or if they don't have either of those, are getting unpaid time due to that workplace exposure," he added.

St. Luke's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Van Deelen said in an emailed statement to WDIO News regarding the quarantined employees saying: "Some employees are staying home from work as a proactive, preventative measure. Most are asymptomatic. Even with some staff out, we are continuing to meet all staffing needs... All healthcare workers at St. Luke’s who report fever or respiratory illness are tested for COVID-19 before being allowed to return to work. The health and safety of our patients, employees and community is of the highest importance to us, and we are doing everything we can to protect them."

Credits

Ryan Juntti

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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