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KC area nurses protest over PPE needs, staffing amid COVID-19 surge

Nurses protest outside HCA Midwest Health HQ
Posted at 10:57 PM, Nov 17, 2020

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Nurses in the Kansas City metro are being stretched too thin – possibly compromising patient care – according to some frontline workers who on Tuesday called for more protections and staffing in the fight against COVID-19.

It's a problem that might worsen as the surge of coronavirus cases continues locally, as well as nationwide.

"It's behaviors that research has put into practice, since COVID started, that has led us to this position," said Cheryl Rodarmel, a registered nurse at Research Medical Center, who was among those gathered outside of HCA Midwest Health headquarters in Overland Park to ask for more help and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

In her 28 years as a nurse, Rodarmel said, she didn't think she would have to protest to receive the tools to protect herself while on the job.

"Under normal circumstances, we would be removing our mask and throwing it away every time we left the room," Rodarmel said. "They're now telling us, and have told us from the very beginning, 'You have to wear one for the full shift. If it gets soiled or wet, you could go down and get a second.' But then when you go down to get it, the monitors for the PPE room, tell us, 'No.' They won't give that."

Concerns about PPE within HCA Midwest Health hospitals have come up since onset of the pandemic.

"There’s not enough of it," Summer Baker, a registered nurse at Menorah Medical Center, said. "We're reusing masks when we shouldn't be. We're using N95 much longer than what the manufacturer has made those supplies to last."

HCA Midwest said in a statement to 41 Action News that through the pandemic its goal has been to "protect our colleagues and preserve our ability to serve our patients and community."

"Our nurses are at the heart and soul of delivering this care," the statement read. "To bolster our nursing team, both in numbers and spirits, we have brought in additional staff from outside the area."

Volunteer nurses from Louisiana's Tulane Medical Center currently are assisting in the Kansas City area.

HCA Midwest also has focused on protecting staff and making sure there is ample PPE, according to the statement.

"This includes our universal masking policy, consistent with CDC guidelines, that has been in place since the end of March and requires masks for everyone in patient care areas and N95 masks for those treating a COVID positive patient having an aerosolizing procedure,” the statement read.

Staffing levels also have been affected, according to nurses, since the beginning of the pandemic.

"There are some staffing grids where nurses are taking six or more patients that piece and it's just too many," Baker said.

However, colleagues of those protesting Tuesday said they believe the health care system is doing enough.

"Reach out to your managers, your directors, you know, if you need something, don't hesitate to ask," JR Rehmann, an emergency department registered nurse at Research Medical Center, said. "Because we do have the support and backing of our administration in hospitals."