‘Catastrophic death’ coming with staff, PPE, and hospital capacity shortages in US, warns top nurses union

Danielle Zoellner
·3 min read
Nurses union warns of ‘catastrophic death’ coming amid a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations (AP)
Nurses union warns of ‘catastrophic death’ coming amid a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalisations (AP)

A top nurses union in the United States has warned about the "catastrophic deaths" coming at a time when hospitals are experiencing a shortage in PPE, staff, and capacity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Nurses United held a virtual press conference on Monday as a vast majority of states are experiencing surges in Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths.

“We need to act now. We need to act fast, because nurses can see the catastrophic death on the horizon,” Jean Ross, the president of National Nurses United, said on Monday.

“Our latest survey of nurses showed that more than 80 per cent of hospitals have done no surge-capacity planning as we enter the winter cold and flu season," she added. “I am telling you nearly one year into this pandemic, our hospitals are knowingly still not prepared.”

Early data has showed that 2,100 healthcare professionals have thus far died from the coronavirus pandemic while treating patients. But National Nurses United said the numbers was a “gross underestimate” of how many nurses and other healthcare professionals who’ve died from the novel virus.

The nurses union called on the local, state, and federal governments to assist hospitals in accessing more PPE, issuing mask mandates for the public, and implementing lockdown measures to mitigate the current surge.

“We are still fighting for optimal staffing and safe PPE,” Ms Ross said. “None of this is normal, none of this inevitable … it could’ve been prevented.”

The nurses involved in the press conference expressed optimism about an incoming Biden administration, as they said they believed President-elect Joe Biden would follow the “science” when handling the pandemic. But it was acknowledged that waiting until January for Mr Biden to be inaugurated would not help the current surge happening across the country.

“We're relieved that as of 20 January, the Biden administration will step in. We look forward to working closely with President-elect Joe Biden on our demands,” Bonnie Castillo, the executive director for National Nurses United, said.

“But patients and nurses can’t wait that long. We’re heading into winter and flu season now, with cases surging," she added.

The nurses union also called for the Heroes Act to pass in Congress, which would provide businesses and workers more stimulus money amid the pandemic. This funding, they said, would provide more people with the ability to stay home, which would assist in curbing the spread of the virus.

Not only would this funding aid businesses and workers, but it would also provide additional resources to hospitals during a time when they’re experiencing a dramatic increase in coronavirus-positive patients.

Congress and the Trump administration has not indicated if talks will resume about additional stimulus funding, a major blow to the American public.

On Monday, the US has recorded more than 12.3 million coronavirus cases and more than 257,000 people have died from the novel virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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