March 27, 2020 | 7:42pm | Updated March 27, 2020 | 8:01pm
Nurses at Jacobi hospital in the Bronx are rebelling against a new city hospital policy of rationing that would require them to reuse the same N95 mask for up to five days.
They’re told to put another surgical mask over the same mask to prevent contamination.
“Management is limiting access to PPE equipment, and asking nurses to reuse N95s for an entire week. This is unacceptable for nurses and the COVID patients we are trying to save,” Jacobi nurse Kelley Cabrera told The Post.
“We’re being asked to do something we would have been reprimanded for a month ago. We’re putting ourselves and our patients in danger by doing this,” added Cabrera, the Nurses Association union rep at the facility.
Ideally nurses should use one mask per visit with a patient and then discard for infection control, Cabrera, who works in the emergency department, said.
Jacobi nurses are so incensed that they are holding a rally outside the hospital Saturday to protest the policy.
Cabrera said city health authorities know this is a risky practice but they’re imposing it because of inadequate supplies.
A notice to staffers sent by Jacobi Chief Medical Officer Michael Zinaman and Chief Nurse Officer Suzanne Pennacchio said “N95s can be re-used up to five days per H H [Health Hospitals] guidelines.”
They said “surgical masks are to be worn over N95 masks” to bolster safety.
Cabrera pointed to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that say if there is a shortage of masks health care workers can use “homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort…..”
Health Hospitals issued a statement Friday night saying that “every health care worker in our system who needs PPE [personal protective equipment} is able to receive what they need” but acknowledged “we have taken serious measures to conserve what we do have.”
“Nurses are the heart of NYC Health Hospitals and their safety during our COVID-19 response is a top priority. We currently have the supplies needed for all of our staff, but are fully cognizant that there is a nationwide shortage of supplies,” the statement said, adding, “we continue to advocate to local, state and federal agencies for additional personal protective equipment.”
Jacobi and the public hospitals are following guidelines set forth by the CDC and city and state health departments and each healthcare worker has the ability to use or reuse any equipment “based on their own assessment of appropriateness,” an Health Hospitals official said.
Meanwhile during a press briefing Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said additional masks and other protective gear are being shipped to hospitals.
The revolt against the rationing of masks follows The Post report of nurses at Mt. Sinai West hospital resorting to wearing trash bags over their uniforms to protest the rationing of gowns, and blamed the situation for the coronavirus death of a beloved colleague, Kious Kelly.
Mt. Sinai denied any shortage of protective gear.
Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio also claimed there were adequate supplies of protective gear for health care workers — at least for now. But nurses the Nurses Association union scoffed at those assertions.