COVID

Mass. nurses union calls on Baker to declare a state of emergency over ‘overrun’ healthcare facilities

“The system is buckling under the pressure."

Steven Senne / AP, File

The Massachusetts Nurses Association is calling on Gov. Charlie Baker to declare a state of emergency through the end of March, urging the Republican leader to “take immediate action” to address what the union described as an ongoing crisis in the state’s healthcare facilities “before it is too late.”

In a letter to the governor on Thursday, the nurses cited concerns of increasing hospitalizations and “worsening pre-existing, profit-centered healthcare industry staffing practices,” according to a press release.

The union is asking Baker to address hospital visitor policies and procedures for N95 masks and quarantine, among other items, to address the “healthcare emergency.”

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“Two years into this pandemic, we are now at a place we all feared,” Katie Murphy, union president, said in the letter. “Healthcare workers are overwhelmed and burned out. Healthcare facilities are overrun with both COVID-19 patients and those individuals who delayed care throughout the pandemic, and the system is buckling under the pressure. We are closer than we have ever been to the collapse of the healthcare system”

The union, which represents around 23,000 nurses across the state, is asking Baker to take the following steps with the declaration of a state of emergency:

Reinstate temporary expedited licensure for out-of-state nurses.

Reinstate liability protection for healthcare workers working outside their area of practice.

Impose stricter visitor policies at hospitals across the state- including restrictions and PPE enforcement.

Require that all staff interacting with patients be provided with new N95 masks upon request.

Provide onsite testing for symptomatic and asymptomatic employees. Healthcare staff should not have to seek testing offsite. Hospitals have access to tests and the capacity to test.

Provide onsite booster shots for healthcare staff.

Return to previous quarantine procedures for COVID positive healthcare workers.

Provide additional support for school nurses.

Repeal the regulations regarding travel nurses which have further destabilized the nursing workforce.

Support a local manufacturing base for domestic production of PPE.

Include the voices of those on the frontlines.

Re-establish procedures (tents outside EDs) to reduce COVID exposure.

Increase the use of the National Guard.

Utilize all healthcare staff for the delivery of direct patient care (including managers and administrators).

Murphy said the current staffing crisis has been “years in the making.”

“Hospital administrators have implemented policies that drove tens of thousands of qualified staff away from hospital nursing as a result of strategic efforts to understaff hospitals to generate greater operating margins,” she said. “The pandemic has only exacerbated this situation and demonstrated the systemic lack of understanding and appreciation of the role and value of those providing direct patient care.”

Boston.com was awaiting comment from Baker’s office as of publication time.

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