California nurses begin a two-day strike Tuesday, protesting what they see as insufficient training and supplies to fight the Ebola virus.
Some 20,000 nurses are planning to walkout, which would impact 86 hospitals and clinics operated by Kaiser Permanente in the northern part of the state, according to a statement by National Nurses United. The union extended its contract with the nonprofit medical provider until October after it expired in August.
The nurses are protesting “eroding patient care conditions symbolized by inadequate safeguards at most U.S. hospitals,” the group said.
The worries come after two Dallas nurses were infected after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient to die of the virus in the U.S. Both nurses are now Ebola-free. The Centers for Disease Control released updated standards for healthcare facilities, including specifics on what protective equipment workers should use.
The union is asking for optimal personal protective equipment for nurses and other caregivers who interact with potential Ebola patients. This includes full-body hazmat suits that protect against blood and viral penetration, as well as air purifying respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Beyond equipment, the striking nurses are also pushing for continuous, rigorous interactive training for hospital staff who might encounter an Ebola patient. The risk of infection is greatest with putting on and taking off the hazmat suits, and practice is the best way to ensure medical workers are prepared, according to the CDC guidelines.
A Kaiser hospital spokesman said the hospitals have contingency plans in order and will operate as normal. Any elective or non-urgent appointments will be rescheduled. He also refuted the nurses complaints, saying that Kaiser has trained their staff with the right equipment.