LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Registered nurses at UC medical centers across California want the public to know that they are not prepared to handle Ebola cases.
Five California hospitals designated as priority hospitals to treat the Ebola virus lack proper training and equipment, said the California Nurses Association, which held a speak out Wednesday morning at UCLA.
Similar protests have already occurred at University of California hospitals in San Francisco and San Diego.
On Friday, the hospital system told the California Department of Public Health the facilities were ready for patients.
Union representatives disagreed and are asking for full body hazmat suits with a special respiratory device in addition to more training. To date, staff training has included emails, online material and a town hall-style meeting, a union representative said.
“It’s all new. Nobody understands everything completely. They’re still developing new policies to address the protection for the staff and the public,” RN Christopher Jacks said.
The union represents 12,000 registered nurses at the five hospitals and is part of National Nurses United. It said there are similar shortcomings at all five UC facilities.
UCLA held an Ebola preparedness exercise on Oct. 17, which was observed by the Los Angeles County health department officials.
The event included protocols for transporting patients through the hospital, disposing of trash and waste, dedicating equipment for Ebola patient use only, setting up a mobile laboratory, acquiring specialized personal protective equipment and staff training.
“The safety and health of patients we serve and all those who care for them is paramount in everything we do,” Dr. Robert Cherry, Chief Medical and Quality Officer for UCLA Health System, said. “This includes providing personal protective equipment that meets the latest guidelines, leaving no skin uncovered, and requiring extensive training for how to put on and remove this equipment for those who would care for a possible Ebola patient. Every day we add to our knowledge by staying in touch with other institutions and government agencies and by listening to and acting on suggestion from our staff in order to optimize our readiness.”
“I look at it as it’s a public safety issue,” Jacks said.
Los Angeles County’s top health official said he is satisfied that UCLA’s hospital has strong training and sufficient available equipment — even if it would have to borrow from other area hospitals.
“In terms of training … they’re very far ahead,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer.
There are currently no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in California.
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