By MARTHA MENDOZA
At least 10 nurses are heading back to the COVID-19 ward this week after being suspended for demanding protective respirator masks, the National Nurses United union said Tuesday.
Their Southern California hospital has reinstated them and is now supplying the N95 masks to nurses working with infected patients.
Last week, the Associated Press reported that nurses at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica were on administrative leave after telling their managers they wouldn’t enter COVID-19 patient rooms without the masks.
The N95 mask filters out 95% of all airborne particles, including ones too tiny to be blocked by regular masks. But hospital administrators said they weren’t necessary and didn’t provide them, the nurses said.
Last week, Providence said in a statement that it had set up a system to disinfect and reprocess the masks, which are in huge demand amid global shortages.
A hospital spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that Providence is now providing N95s to all nurses caring for COVID-19 patients.
“Our organization has received long-awaited shipments of N95s,” spokesperson Patricia Aidem said. “We are conserving these masks to ensure continued supply as this pandemic continues, through an on-site reprocessing center that very effectively disinfects the masks and maintains their integrity and size.”
Less than 0.17% of the 35,000 Southern California caregivers in the Providence system have contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, Aidem added.