Lack of Protection: Healthcare Workers Fear Discipline Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Health care workers are an irreplaceable human resource when it comes to helping people recover from COVID-19. Unfortunately, however, far too many health workers, including many nurses, are currently at risk due to a lack of protective safety gear like effective masks. Even worse, thousands of healthcare workers across the U.S. have been laid off or disciplined for speaking out against these unsafe conditions.

Many more remain silent: afraid that they will be disciplined or fired if they speak out.

If you are a healthcare worker who has been unfairly penalized for demanding proper protections while on the job, working with an experienced medical license attorney may be in your best interests.

Firings Increase as Nurses Lodge Complaints

Across the United States, healthcare workers are protesting the lack of proper protection, especially a nationwide lack of masks that will protect them from COVID-19. In many places, the N95 mask, which filters out 95 percent of airborne particles and is far more effective than a regular surgical mask, has fallen into a national shortage.

Although it is riskier to treat COVID-19 patients without this type of mask, due to shortages, even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is not currently requiring that caregivers wear them.

While the lack of masks is problematic, many hospital administrators are unable to provide these masks and are forcing healthcare professionals to work without them.

Many health care employees across the nation are fighting back, including several nurses at a southern California hospital who refused to enter COVID-19 patients’ rooms unless they were provided with N95 masks. Their decision came after one of their colleagues tested positive for coronavirus.

In response, the hospital suspended ten nurses. Although the nurses are currently being paid, they are forbidden from returning to work until a thorough investigation concludes.

According to the hospital, they have increased their supply of N95 masks and are now issuing them for employees caring for COVID-19 patients, but this does not change the fact that nurses are being disciplined for demanding safe working conditions.

In California and across the country, many health care workers have submitted formal complaints to employers. Still, others are continuing to work and are either making or buying their own supplies for protection. In some places, workers have been banned from wearing their own masks unless they are treating a COVID-19 patient and are told that if they choose to wear one, they will be disciplined. In other places, doctors are issued masks while nurses are not.

Health care workers continue to express their frustration to their employers, and many have complained to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Meanwhile, over 9,000 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Nurse Protests Escalate Nationwide

Nurses’ unions in several states, including California, have recently protested the unfair treatment at their hospitals and on social media. Nurses at Kaiser Permanente in Fresno, California, where ten other nurses have tested positive, protested to demand additional protections. While the hospital does provide N95 masks, nurses are allowed only one per day, creating concerns that they will spread the virus as they come into contact with more COVID-19 patients.

Administrators at Kaiser Permanente insist that nurses are not unnecessarily exposed to the virus, but nurses continue to disagree. Some have mentioned that the current measures being demanded to take to control the virus are insufficient, and would have resulted in disciplinary action prior to COVID-19.

When to Contact a Medical License Lawyer

If you are a nurse, a doctor, or another type of healthcare worker who has been disciplined for raising concerns about whether or not you are adequately protected, a medical license lawyer may be able to help.

There is no reason why any health care professional should be disciplined for being concerned about their safety, or for actions they are taking to keep themselves safe.

For years, Scott J Harris has been helping medical professionals improve outcomes in disciplinary situations, and he may be able to help you as well. Contact SJ Harris today to discuss your case.

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This blog is meant to be informational. It is not meant to be all-encompassing legal advice. If you are facing a situation involving your professional license, seek counsel from a licensed attorney.