Nurses and caregivers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital are demanding safer conditions after a recent COVID-19 outbreak infected 26 hospital workers and as many as four patients.
Caregivers including nurses, nursing assistants, and respiratory therapists represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers and Santa Rosa Memorial’s Staff Nurses Association call on the hospital to ramp up COVID-19 testing and strengthen safety protocols to avoid another outbreak.
(The unions involved do not represent staff at Sonoma Valley Hospital.)
“Santa Rosa Memorial was too slow to recognize the outbreak and it hasn’t done nearly enough to make sure there won’t be another one,” said Allison Partington, a medical transporter who was exposed to the coronavirus, but denied a COVID-19 test by the hospital.
Workers staged a rally Wednesday to air their grievances.
“We’re concerned that nurses have been told to continue working even after being exposed to COVID-19 as long as they don’t show symptoms,” said Sue Gadbois, a registered nurse and president of the hospital’s nurses’ union. “We know that this virus can be spread by people who are asymptomatic.”
The COVID-19 outbreak started in the hospital’s primary medical/surgery unit. Hospital officials believe the outbreak dates back to Aug. 6, Gadbois said, but workers were not informed until Aug. 28.
Union reps contend that, nearly a month later, many workers who routinely travel in and out of the affected unit still have not been tested. And, the hospital has failed to provide N95 masks to all caregivers who are treating patients suspected of having COVID-19 or that have already tested positive.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Santa Rosa Memorial has also refused to test workers who reported having COVID-19 symptoms, the union said.
Worker reps call for the immediate testing of all caregivers who have been exposed to COVID-19 or show symptoms; paid leave for all caregivers who must self-quarantine; free, regularly scheduled COVID-19 testing to all caregivers; comprehensive contact tracing; and isolated care for all newly admitted patients until they receive their COVID-19 test result.
“The infection control measures at Santa Rosa Memorial were not strong enough to prevent a serious COVID-19 outbreak,” said Steven Batson, an anesthesia technician. “Santa Rosa Memorial must listen to its caregivers and take common-sense steps to protect us and our patients.”
The National Union of Healthcare workers is a member-led movement representing more than 15,000 healthcare workers, including 740 nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, medical technicians and housekeepers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
The Staff Nurses Association is an independent union representing 780 registered nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital is a 283-bed acute care hospital owned by Providence St. Joseph Health, the nation’s third-largest Catholic hospital chain.