Seattle Healthcare Workers Say They Aren’t Getting What They Need to Protect Them from Coronavirus



I'm an RN who works at the NW campus. I've been trying to get tested for COVID-19 since Saturday morning, when I began experiencing symptoms (I worked the three previous days and had direct contact with multiple patients, many of whom would fit "high risk" criteria). I took the survey and have left multiple messages. This afternoon I was finally able to reach someone but eventually gave up after being on hold for over 10 minutes. I'm sick. I'm frustrated. And I'm worried about the safety of patients everywhere. This is the biggest health crisis of my lifetime and the lack of leadership at virtually every level is alarming.


No #1, it’s because these medical facilities did not have enough supplies or their own stored up for such a situation. We’re talking about a lot more than the kind of masks laypeople went out and bought. (Hospitals should have already had enough for staff). Didn’t you see the part where the nurse says the bureaucrats don’t even have a plan?


There is a some misinformation in this article. Here's a clarification of a few points.
-The Puget Sound are did move to droplet instead of airborne precautions, which is the WHO guidelines that every country in the world is following. This is a coronavirus which is spread by droplets, not suspended airborne molecules like measles or TB. Airborne precautions are not necessary for vast majority of patients with COVID and would be a giant waste of resources.
-Looking at data from China, it is not thought that asymptomatic spread is common, something like 98% of people at least had a fever. Also if you are not having actual symptoms that means you are not coughing/sneezing and spreading virus droplets. As long as people practice hand hygiene it is very hard for someone not having symptoms to spread a droplet illness without close beyond casual contact (sharing drinks, intimate physical contact).
-I do agree that unless you are having severe illness, please do not come to the ED. Coming to the ED could potentially expose you to COVID. Or if you are only having mild symptoms you could potentially infect an at risk patient in the hospital for other reasons. Call your Primary Care Provider for further instruction. Local hospital systems are setting up outpatient testing and telemedicine consults to help. If you are having trouble breathing or severe illness then please go to your local ED.


To #2 above...sorry about the 10 minute wait on the telephone. It's possible there were people just like you ahead in line, and they were working to get to you as best they could before you hung up. And sorry you're feeling sick, I hope you recover soon. It's possible your department has communicated guidance on when to stay home and avoid contact with your patients, while you're awaiting testing. Testing kits for coronavirus are in short supply, but the treatment is supportive. It's also important to remember that influenza, RSV, or something else could be responsible for your illness.

And likewise, while leaders plan and navigate our evolving understanding of this infection, they also cannot ignore the many other things related to the day-to-day operations of hospitals and clinics that need to continue. There's no roadmap for this and resources are not infinite.

Nothing is ever going to be perfect, including wait times, protective supplies, diagnosing and treating viruses, or leadership. I'm sure Ms. Herzog understands this, right?


The big take-away here is that we have little-to-no surge capacity for an unpredictable epidemic.

It's possible that the WHO recommendation to use regular "droplet" precautions instead of airborne precautions with N95 masks is correct. I think so. Whew, that's lucky! Because one thing this experience has shown us is that we don't have an adequate supply of N95s to get us through an airborne epidemic.

But what we really don't have enough of is housekeepers to clean the viruses out of patient rooms, CNA's to help patients with basic hygiene, and nurses to carefully monitor the evolution of symptoms so we recognize patients needing increased levels of care.

We don't have enough of these things to deal with an unpredictable epidemic because we didn't have enough of them last month just to deal with regular old February. Swedish staff continue to work without a contract because those who are currently running our local hospital seem to care more about supporting senior management than they do about listening to their licensed and experienced staff who have been begging for additional resources just so we can do our regular jobs with the sort of quality that we (and, I suspect, you) would expect in a major hospital in a major city in a major country. The work we were struggling to do BEFORE the new corona-virus hit.

I hope we can all see this new epidemic as a wake-up call. I'm pretty confident we're going to get through it, but it's going to be a practice run. Given global conditions, the big question is, are we going to be better prepared for the next one, that might not be so forgiving?


This is all while labor negotiations between Providence and Swedish employees is ongoing and Providence still refuses to negotiate in good faith. Sunday, Providence offered to cut sick time for new employees and refused to address staffing shortages. Healthcare workers are on the front lines battling this, many of whom undoubtedly have already been exposed to COVID-19 while having to ration and reuse PPE. Maybe they should strike again?