SAN JOSE (KPIX) – Two registered nurses working more than 100 miles apart claim they tried to warn hospital staff to prepare for the pandemic last year, but their warnings fell on deaf ears.
“I was actually the first nurse to have a COVID patient,” said San Leandro Hospital registered nurse and California Nurses Association board member Mawata Kamara. “There was no real process. We had to call the state at the time and then the state told us she has a low probability we need to send this patient home. We were not prepared. It was worrying as a nurse. ”
Kamara said she remembers having conversations about the need to hire and train more nurses.
“We saw how many people died in other countries,” she said. “Why did we feel we would be immune to that experience.”
“What is the preparation, what is the plan,” said Kaiser Roseville registered nurse Catherine Kennedy.
Thereafter, patient after patient began to emerge and test positive for COVID-19.
That was when Kennedy, president of the California Nurses Association president and member of the National Nurses Organizing Committee, saw the true test of how prepared – or unprepared – Kaiser was in dealing with a pandemic.
Both Kennedy and Kamara said they were not immune to the nationwide lack of personal protective equipment.
“The PV was locked,” Kamara said. “And we had to deal with the N95 versus no N95. We recycled them. I have been a nurse since 2008. I know I have never heard of recycling. ”
“They were never meant to be used and recycled because many years ago you recycled something, you were disciplined for something like that,” Kennedy said. “Now it’s suddenly ok.”
She said some hospitals continue to deal with PPE, which is not readily available.
“It’s exhausting to make sure you have what you need, not to have to look around and say, ‘Hi manager, I need it,’ instead of having it available to you,” he said. Kennedy. “It’s important for the administration, the hospital industry, to understand that our lives matter.”
More than a year and a half into the pandemic, nurses now say they are dealing with a severe shortage of staff, which they say is as insecure as the PPE issues.
“We had a nurse doing the work as three people,” Kamara said. “It’s dangerous, it’s dangerous. One person does not have to perform the work as three people. ”
According to a database set up by journalists at The Guardian, COVID-19 has killed 3,607 healthcare professionals. The CDC does not follow these statistics.
Now, registered nurses fear that working conditions can only get worse as COVID cases increase, they deal with staff shortages and nurses are tired of the pandemic toll.
“Every day I get these calls to pick up several hours,” Kamara said. “I have been in many conversations where nurses just do not want to do it anymore, they do not want to do it. It is too much.”
“Nurses are getting frustrated to the point where they have to do their two-to-three shifts a week and no more,” Kennedy said. “There are those who decide to retire early.”
Kamara said they now again have to put people in the hallways and there is talk of opening more rooms to deal with the recent rise. This time, they are not only dealing with staffing issues, but also patients who are more combative.
“We’re seeing an increase in volatile behavior, whether it’s the patient or the visitor,” Kennedy said.
“I trust science, and even though people in your neighborhood might tell you something different, what I see in the hospital is different,” Kamara said. “I have seen younger people who thought they would be okay, and went out and came back, gave it to their grandmother, and now their grandmother is dying. It breaks my heart that we have reached the point where there is so much mistrust of health care. ”
Kaiser Roseville said in a statement that the hospital does not have a current shortage of personal protective equipment and acknowledged the work nurses have been doing for the past year and a half. San Leandro Hospital also released a statement acknowledging the lack of PPE at the beginning of the pandemic as well as the current shortage of nurses taking place nationwide.
Both hospitals said they have provided health care staff resources, including mental health services.
But Kennedy and Kamara said they believe much of what happened last year could have been prevented.
“We feel that hospitals should have done better in preparing,” Kamara said. “It’s us who take the fight for it, while they call us heroes.”
“To make the employer understand that we do not want to be heroes, we want to be able to go home to our families, to our communities,” Kennedy said.