Nurses in the COVID-19 unit of a local hospital refused to enter patients’ rooms Thursday because the hospital has not provided them with N95 masks. 

For the last three weeks, nurses on Providence St. John’s Health Center’s coronavirus floor have complained that the hospital has refused to give them N95 masks, which they say are provided to doctors, nurses and staff on other floors. On Thursday, eight nurses stopped treating patients after doctors they work with told them that the surgical masks they have been wearing would not adequately protect them from the virus. 

Six St. John’s nurses have tested positive for coronavirus so far and one of them worked in the COVID-19 unit, said Jacob Childs, a nurse in the unit.

“Five doctors informed us that in their professional opinion, we should not enter the room of a suspected or confirmed coronavirus patient without an N95,” Childs said. 

Childs said hospital management held the nurses at the facility overnight and Friday morning threatened to report them to the California Board of Registered Nursing and put them on administrative leave if they did not treat patients. Three of the eight nurses were put on leave, he said.

After nurses held a demonstration Friday morning to protest the hospital’s decision, an additional four nurses were put on administrative leave, a spokesperson for the California Nurses Association said.

Childs said nurses risk contracting the virus without N95 masks, which filter out airborne particles. Public health officials have said coronavirus can linger in the air for a few seconds and it’s unclear whether a surgical mask can prevent particles from reaching the nose and mouth.

St. John’s has a stockpile of N95 masks and received a donation of 13,000 KN95 masks last month, Childs said. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier this week that he would spend nearly $1 billion to supply California’s essential workers with 150 million N95 masks and 50 million surgical masks. 

The nurses on the COVID-19 floor estimate that they need 20 N95 masks per day to treat the eight patients currently in the unit. In the ICU, where there are about 16 patients, nurses are being provided with masks, Childs said. 

“It’s not that we need donations, it’s that they have the equipment and aren’t giving it to us,” he said. “There’s absolutely no reason for them not to give us the supplies at this point.”

Providence St. John’s spokesperson Patricia Aidem said earlier this week that nurses are being asked to conserve their usage of protective equipment amid a global shortage. 

On Friday, she said Providence continues to distribute appropriate personal protective equipment in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, Cal-OSHA and county and state health agencies. 

“The safety of our caregivers is our No. 1 priority. We would never put a single caregiver in a position that would cause harm,” Aidem said. “Being part of a large health system enables us to deploy PPE to areas of greatest need, ensuring the safety of our patients and caregivers at all times.”

Many nurses are afraid that they are putting their families at risk because they don’t have the option to self-quarantine while working with COVID-19 patients.

One St. John’s nurse has been sleeping in her car to avoid infecting her immunocompromised husband, a CNA spokesperson said.

Last Thursday, Adam Smith, the husband of another St. John’s nurse, circulated a petition asking the hospital to provide hotel rooms for staff working with COVID-19 patients that has amassed more than 750 signatures.

In the petition, Smith said St. John’s would follow UCLA, USC and other health systems in Los Angeles County in securing hotel rooms for staff working with cororonavirus patients. He said the hospital could help nurses access a program Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday to provide front-line workers with free or discounted hotel rooms.

“(St. John’s) has been working to provide showers and changing stations for folks coming off their shift, and that is appreciated, but our healthcare workers should have access to lodging between shifts to mitigate the risk of spread to families and other high-risk loved ones who aren’t able to properly isolate when they get home to a small apartment or house,” he wrote in the petition.

Some nurses also worry that without widespread testing of hospital staff, they may be unknowingly passing the virus to their patients.

A nurse in a cancer unit who requested anonymity said she wasn’t notified that a nurse who had been in daily contact with others in her unit had tested positive until she pressed a manager to confirm a rumor that had been circulating among staff.

She said she left work for a week after developing a sore throat, headache and low-grade fever, but the hospital did not test her because her symptoms were not severe.

“It’s just being taken very nonchalantly,” she said. “We’re worried that it’s spreading through our unit, and we work with an immunocompromised patient population, but we were told it’s not necessary for us to be tested.”

This article was updated April 13 at 9:40 a.m.

Join the Conversation


  1. The nurses should sue the hospital for endangering their lives by withholding PPE! How do they expect staff to care for their patients appropriately and with a safe ratio if all the staff are catching covid-19 themselves? Patient safety should come first, but the safety of all healthcare providers should certainly come before that to ensure there will still be staff to care for the community long-term.

  2. Nurses, if you read this, document via video/record each request for the N95 mask, and the hospitals ignored request. Call the Grovernor’s office if local public health officials are ignoring. Scream as loud as you can!!!! St.John’s is all about revenue. This hospital use to be great. WTF happened. Greed!

  3. I work at this hospital. All of our PPE was confiscated and we need special permission to obtain it. We have no gowns, no N95s, one surgical mask for the entire shift, running low on sanitizer and gloves. It is shameful and dangerous. We need to stand together against this type of reckless administration.

  4. It is absolutely ludicrous the nurses in the COVID-19 unit are not issued N95 respirators while staff on other floors receive the masks. These nurses are risking their own lives and possibly putting their families at risk for us. Anyone with half a brain knows these nurses should be the very first people issued N95 masks. If the hospital administration does not change this immediately, I will never go to a Providence Hospital. If they are so blasé about jeopardizing the COVID-19 nurses lives, I shutter to think how the hospital treats its patiences.

  5. It is disgraceful to put front line workers at risk. I was once proud to say that I had worked at such an distinguished and honorable hospital but not now. It is sad to see the business overtake the mission! Perhaps they should remove the St. in the name!

  6. What the hell is wrong with you hospital people, give those nurses what they need to protect themselves! They are HEROES trying to save lives, this is NO TIME for ADMINISTRATION POLITICS! shameful!

  7. How are they protecting their nurses if they don’t give them N95 masks , the article clearly says they all work on the coronavirus floor, so they treat patients with coronavirus…this is so sad and upsetting. They have the right to complain, they should not be suspended, they should be given the masks. We do not want a NY situation in CA. #stopthespread #keepnursessafe

  8. Now another group of St Johns nurses has been sent home on administrative leave.
    My daughter is a nurse on the “Covid” floor at St Johns Hospital and was one of four nurses to also be sent home last night (4-11-20) due to the controversy over the hospital withholding the appropriate N95 masks as they were caring for both potential and positive Covid-19 patients.

    They had 3 confirmed patients on their floor, yet were denied the PPE to help protect them from contracting this deadly disease.
    It makes no sense for the hospital to stockpile the equipment in case of a future surge in patients, when these masks should be a necessary form of protection for their staff now! The hospital is giving the N95 masks to Labor & Delivery nurses (which is not necessary) and withholding them from the staff directly working with patients who have the virus!

    Providence St Johns needs to protect their essential front line workers!

  9. This is the problem with a democracy and free society compared to a totalitarian dictatorship. (I want freedom but there are problems with it). Here we see selfish nurses with bad information not sacrificing for the benefit of their patients. Compare to the Secret Service who would sacrifice themselves to protect the President. Or the military that signs up knowing the risks of being in harm’s way. Here we have health care workers who first of all have bad information. Studies make clear that the masks they have are just as good as the masks they want. Second, nurses take an oath when they become nurses to help their patients. Here we have selfish ignorant nurses who care more about themselves than their patients. Just like those who hoard toilet paper, there are some very selfish people in our country who ruin it for everyone else. We are witnessing the breakdown of society, the thin red line, the thin blue line between society and anarchy. God help us all. This country is doomed. The democrats are destroying it. All they want to know is what’s in it for them. None of them cares about society. President Kennedy said to ask what you can do for your country. Isaiah 6:8: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Recent examples I have witnessed: a 25 year old black woman cut in line at the Target. At Costco, a black man refused to throw the wipe for his shopping cart into the trash can. At Von’s, a black woman refused to tell me where the canned soup aisle was. Do you see a pattern here? Everybody has a role. Don’t look to government to solve these issues. It is the selfish people among us who will destroy us, not the government. Now do you understand why there are long lines outside the local gun shops? The democrats say “take, take, take”. Well, eventually there will be nothing left to take because all the cuppborads will be bare. All of them.

  10. It is unbelievable to me that a hospital as reputable as St. John’s does not protect its nurses to the HIGHEST degree! “Acceptable” coverage is NOT the safest! Obviously the safety of Saint John’s caregivers is NOT their No.1 priority!

  11. We would never ask a firefighter to jump in a raging house burning, with no protective gear, no hose and no water. Why do these administrators insist doctors and nurses do the same thing? I think their union should call a boycott and wait and see how quickly they get these masks. These people want to work, they just don’t want to die doing it.

  12. Dear St. John’s.

    I am an RN in Minnesota and just read the piece about the manner in which your hospital is acting regarding masks and your nursing staff. I find this action deplorable and actually, astounding!!!!! Not to support nurses and other healthcare workers with N95’s in rooms of suspected or confirmed Covid–19? Try to explain this when you get to the Pearly Gates. No, really, just try to.

  13. Let the administrators who made this decision start providing bed side care to these patients with the masks they are “good enough.”

  14. This hospital chooses profits over its workers after any disaster. They fired long time employees after the earthquake in the 90s for cheaper replacements.

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