A hospital in California suspended 10 nurses after they demanded N95 masks while working with coronavirus patients.
Providence Saint John’s Health Center is now 10 nurses short after the health care workers refused to enter coronavirus patient rooms without proper protection on April 9, CNN reported.
The nurses said they were told there weren’t enough N95 masks to go around, but they encountered colleagues wearing them that day.
“We spend significantly more time with these patients than doctors,” Chelsea Halmy, one of the suspended nurses, told BuzzFeed News. “It just made us feel like they are valuing the lives of the doctors more than the nurses.”
N95 masks are the best bet for hospital personnel because they filter out 95% of airborne particles, such as COVID-19. Still, many health care workers in the U.S. have died from coronavirus after fighting to save lives.
Providence St. John’s said there were not enough N95 masks for the 10 nurses and asked them to wear less-protective surgical masks instead, CNN reported.
Initially, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that all health care workers wear N95 masks when treating coronavirus patients, but loosened that requirement after it was clear there was an ongoing national shortage of the protective gear.
Nurses, however, have argued that standard surgical masks don’t get the job done.
“I mean, it’s crazy that they’re expecting us to wear the same type of mask that they’re telling people to wear to the supermarket,” Halmy told BuzzFeed. “We’re with positive patients that are coughing and are super sick, and we’re in a small, closed room with them for like 12 hours.
The suspended nurses are being paid while on suspension, Buzzfeed reported. But they could face disciplinary action from human resources because of their refusal to work without the necessary protective gear.
The hospital has since received an influx of N95 masks, according to CNN. Following that increase in supply, all personnel have been given the N95s. The 10 nurses, however, remain suspended.