School nurses are being deployed to work in hospitals, basic drug supplies are being depleted in the city’s hospitals and entire hospitals are being converted to treat only patients with COVID-19.
“The sole purpose is to defeat this insidious enemy. We’re in a war. We’re in a world of survival,” said RN Anne Goldman, director of NYSUT’s Health Care Professionals Council and United Federation of Teachers vice president for non-DOE employees, including nurses. “In no way, shape or form has anything we anticipated challenged us like this.”
The first wave of UFT school nurses have been in hospitals about a week now. They were notified last Friday that they needed to report to hospitals to provide care; orientation was provided on the following Saturday and 140 of them went to work on Monday, Goldman said.
As the coronavirus attacks more and more people, health care is an ever-changing landscape. Doctors, nurses, first responders, virus test administrators, and health care staff are all working the front lines, often without enough personal protective equipment.
“Getting PPEs and equipment is a herculean chore,” Goldman said.
NYU-Brooklyn critical care nurse Howard Sandau, a member of NYSUT’s HCPC and special representative to the Federation of Nurses/UFT, said nurses had been using just one protective mask per shift due to short supplies. Most units have been converted to airborne disease intensive care. Nearly 400 extra nurses have been brought in for critical care, medical surgical, and emergency. A former nursing home across the street from the hospital has been converted into hospital treatment for airborne disease.
“It’s a dire, dire situation we’re in,” he said.
Sandau said the UFT is having meals delivered three days a week to hospital nurses, and will be doing so for the next five weeks. One thousand individually wrapped meals are being sent to nurses on all three shifts.
UUP health care members featured on CNN
An important look into the difficult and life-saving work UUP members are doing every day caring for patients on the front lines of the #COVID19 pandemic at SUNY Downstate.
Transportation is also an issue, said nurse practitioner Ellen McTigue, a member of United University Professions who works at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences Center — where the entire University Hospital of Brooklyn has been turned over to the care of COVID-19 patients.
Health care professionals are avoiding public transportation because of health risks, but not everyone has a means to get to work otherwise. For those with cars, more parking has been made available, McTigue said, and some hospital housing has been set up for staff who may not want to commute.
Childcare is also an ongoing concern as medical professionals take on extra shifts. Thanks to the UFT, McTigue said, help is being provided at local schools.
“Fatigue is another issue,” she said. All units in the hospital have been repurposed, as have medical staff. Nurse managers and head nurses, for example, are now doing bedside shifts.