WATSONVILLE—About 50 nurses – most of them wearing bright red scrubs and improvised face masks – gathered along Nielson Street at Watsonville Community Hospital (WCH) Monday morning to protest what they say is a recent decision by hospital administrators to weaken safety standards for COVID-19 patients.
“Registered nurses take an oath to protect and advocate for our patients,” said registered nurse Roseann Farris, who works in the Critical Care Unit. “The very last thing we should do right now is lower (Personal Protective Equipment) protocols, weaken patient care standards and cancel our vital nurses.”
Dan Brothman, CEO of Halsen Healthcare, said that the hospital – and most of those across the U.S. – has not needlessly canceled nursing shifts. They have, however, canceled all elective surgeries.
“We’re getting ready to take care of a surge of COVID patients, but there is no elective surgery right now,” he said.
Brothman said that WCH follows guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that administrators have been working to keep an inventory of necessary supplies such as masks, face shields, gowns, pharmaceuticals and ventilators.
The hospital has also been holding a daily COVID-19 briefing run by a physician and has been following the guidance of the Santa Cruz County Health Agency and the California Department of Public Health.
“We believe we have a strong inventory, and we think we have done a good job of training our staff,” Brothman said.
At the same time, Brothman said that the hospital must practice “PPE stewardship,” referring to using the more-effective N95 masks and other similar equipment only when absolutely necessary.
“You have to maintain a strong inventory and use it wisely,” he said.
Farris said nurses are working on “ground zero” of the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We need hospital executives to do their duty to protect us and begin training and staffing for a surge so that we can honor our oath to care for our patients at the bedside,” she said.