Statement of Ann Twomey, President of HPAE, Regarding the Ebola Virus and Hospital an the Department of Health's Response - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

Statement of Ann Twomey, President of HPAE, Regarding the Ebola Virus and Hospital an the Department of Health’s Response

NJ’s nurses and healthcare workers stand ready to meet the needs of our patients and communities in minimizing risk and exposure due to the Ebola Virus.
To do that, nurses and healthcare workers need be confident that our hospitals, the NJ Department of Health, our public health infrastructure and the CDC are coordinating efforts to make sure that the risks to patients and caregivers are minimized.

Towards that goal, HPAE has put together information, recommendations and actions for all of us in the health care system that has the ability, when working together, to protect our country in this public health crisis.

Nurses and healthcare workers must learn all they can to protect themselves and their patients. But it is the responsibility of our hospitals, and our state and national health agencies to provide the resources, training, standards and guidelines to establish effective Ebola virus prevention programs.

HPAE has put together a ‘tool-kit’ of information on our website to assist nurses and healthcare workers and hospitals in addressing gaps in Ebola prevention programs. HPAE will also sponsor forums to help educate caregivers and foster cooperation with our hospitals, agencies and elected officials to meet this crisis together.

As a union, we will also be urging all hospitals to:

  • Work collaboratively with union representatives and healthcare staff to develop appropriate protocols, training and procedures to minimize risk;
  • Recruit volunteer staff teams designated for care and treatment of suspected Ebola patients;
  • Provide these teams with appropriate protective equipment, following updated CDC guidelines and best practices from the Nebraska Bio-Containment Unit, Doctor’s Without Borders, etc. All staff with potential exposure need hands on training and equipment, not just doctors and nurses. This includes transporters, environmental services (housekeeping, laundry), techs, lab personnel, EMS;
  • Improve infection control protocols and preparedness plans, including availability of all appropriate protective equipment and supplies;
  • Provide regular, rigorous training that includes the entire caregiving team;
  • Have written policies and procedures in place for infection control that specifically address the current Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak;
  • Ensure that systems in place for early identification and isolation of suspect or confirmed EVD cases and carefully apply standard precautions when providing care to all patients regardless of the signs and symptoms they present;
  • Develop a staffing plan that allows the exclusive assignment of clinical and non-clinical personnel to EVD patient care areas;
  • Put procedures in place to ensure safe lab environment for testing; regular and rigorous environmental cleaning, decontamination of surfaces and equipment, management of soiled linen and of waste;
  • Promptly evaluate, care for, and if necessary, isolate health-care workers or any person exposed to blood or body fluids from suspected or confirmed patients with EVD.
  • Hospitals who are not yet capable of safely isolating a suspect or known case of EBV should develop contingency plans with collaborating facilitates where such cases can be safely transported.

The NJ Department of Health should bring together a task force of front-line healthcare workers, unions, and other experts to assist in developing guidelines and resources for hospital preparedness. To that end, we ask that the NJDOH:

  • Establish regular meetings with hospitals, providers, healthcare workers, and stakeholder groups to discuss and develop state guidelines, trainings, and to keep updated on CDC guidelines and protocols;
  • Develop and provide guidelines for hospitals on policies for the safety of patients, visitors and staff;
  • Enforce hospital compliance with updated CDC guidelines and appropriate protective equipment;
  • Designate one hospital in NJ to receive confirmed Ebola patients, minimizing potential exposure, and assuring that patients are cared for by well-trained expert teams. This would NOT obviate the need for ALL hospitals to train staff in recognizing suspected Ebola infection and to train ALL staff with potential exposure in proper precautions and have proper equipment;
  • Provide trainings for healthcare workers, and require training by hospitals;
  • Require that hospital policies provide wages and benefits for workers put on leave as a result of possible exposure.

National CDC and public health agencies should also update their protocols, expanding on proper protective equipment necessary for healthcare workers, including procedures for decontamination and isolation.