Nurses at Brigham and Women’s say they are concerned that packed hospital shuttles are placing them at higher risk for contracting coronavirus.
The nurses, represented by the Massachusetts Nurse Association, say the shuttles for hospital staff run by Mass General Brigham are not implementing a 50 percent capacity limit. The union said the nurses have brought their concerns about the lack of social distancing on shuttles to hospital management multiple times.
“Crowded shuttles are completely unnecessary and are placing Brigham nurses at higher risk for COVID-19 exposure while we try to safely care for patients,” Trish Powers, a operating room nurse at the Brigham and chair of the MNA Bargaining Committee at the hospital, said in a statement. “The hospital is telling the public it is doing everything to keep patients, families and staff safe but will not even commit to a basic social distancing standard. Nurses jammed into shuttles, crowding each other as they ride across the city, is an avoidable and unacceptable danger to the safety of nurses and patients.”
In a statement provided to Boston.com by Mass General Brigham, Erica Shenoy, an associate chief in the Infection Control Unit for Mass. General Hospital, said strict “masking and hand-hygiene policies” are being enforced on the shuttles, which she wrote “will not exceed the number of seats, and no standing is permitted.”
“Frequent cleaning and disinfection of high touch surfaces is also conducted,” she wrote. “This approach is consistent with the standards and policies in place at our hospitals that require universal masking on facility premises. Mass General Brigham shuttles for the most part run at 50% capacity or less. At peak hours, the Crosstown route has occasionally exceeded 50% capacity with a new shuttle arriving every 5-7 minutes.”
According to the nursing association, a union review of the shuttles in mid-June showed nurses and other staff packed onto shuttles with all seats or nearly all seats taken. Meanwhile, the union says, another shuttle company serving the Longwood medical area is adhering to social distancing guidelines by taping off every other seat on shuttles and posting signage.