‘Just a matter of time’: nurses die as US hospitals fail to contain Covid-19

‘Just a matter of time’: nurses die as US hospitals fail to contain Covid-19

  • US hospitals fail to isolate Covid-19 patients, putting workers and other patients at risk

Nurses at Alta Bates Summit medical center were on edge as early as March, when patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 began to show up in areas of the hospital that were not set aside to care for them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had advised hospitals to isolate Covid-19 patients to limit staff exposure and help conserve high-level personal protective equipment in short supply.

Yet Covid patients continued to be scattered through the Oakland hospital, according to complaints to California’s division of occupational safety and health (Cal/Osha). Areas of concern included the sixth-floor medical unit where veteran nurse Janine Paiste-Ponder worked.

Covid patients on that floor were not staying in their rooms, either because they were confused or uninterested in the rules, according to Mike Hill, a nurse in the hospital intensive care unit. Hill, who is also the hospital’s chief representative for the California Nurses Association, said that staff was not provided highly protective N95 respirators.

“It was just a matter of time before one of the nurses died on one of these floors,” Hill said.

Two nurses fell ill, including Paiste-Ponder, 59, who died of complications from the virus on 17 July.

The California Nurses Association has filed complaints to Cal/Osha, the state’s workplace safety regulator. Similar concerns have swept across the US, according to interviews, a review of government workplace safety complaints and health facility inspection reports.