DEBORAH BURGER RN - Co-Founder of National Nurses United speaks about the recent Ebola crisis at the Dallas Hospital in Texas and her organization's concern over the safety of healthcareworkers there and across the USA as this disease spreads. Deborah takes questions from around the world addressing concerns of listeners.
DEBORAH BURGER is co-president of National Nurses United and president of California Nurses Association, which helped found the NNU. CNA membership has doubled in the past seven years, now representing over 57,000 RNs in 164 facilities across California. Its advocacy for nurses and patients provides an important check to corporate domination of health care debates. With CNA, California nurses have led the nation in ground-breaking patient advocacy legislation such as staffing ratios and whistle-blower protections.
ABOUT NURSES AT DALLAS, TEXAS HOSPITAL
Two nurses at Dallas Hospital in Texas contracted Ebola after caring for Ebola patient Thomas Duncan who later died. National Nurses United acted as an intermediary for nurses at Dallas Hospital, when CDC spokesperson Thomas Frieden blamed the first nurse's contamination on her breaking protocol.
National Nurses United, served as spokesperson for the nurses at Dallas Hospital many of whom didn't want to reveal their identities for fear of retaliation from the hospital, these are some of the allegations they made regarding the hospital's failure to adequately protect them and other patients while treating Thomas Duncan:
1. CLAIM: DUNCAN WASN'T IMMEDIATELY ISOLATED
On the day that patient Thomas Eric Duncan was admitted to the hospital with possible Ebola symptoms, he was "left for several hours, not in isolation, in an area where other patients were present," union co-president Deborah Burger said.
Up to seven other patients were present in that area, the nurses said, according to the union. A nursing supervisor faced resistance from hospital authorities when the supervisor demanded that Duncan be moved to an isolation unit, the nurses said, according to the union.
2. CLAIM: THE NURSES' PROTECTIVE GEAR LEFT THEIR NECKS EXPOSED
After expressing concerns that their necks were exposed even as they wore protective gear, the nurses were told to wrap their necks with medical tape, the union says. "They were told to use medical tape and had to use four to five pieces of medical tape wound around their neck. The nurses have expressed a lot of concern about how difficult it is to remove the tape from their neck," Burger said.
3. CLAIM: AT ONE POINT, HAZARDOUS WASTE PILED UP
"There was no one to pick up hazardous waste as it piled to the ceiling," Burger said. "They did not have access to proper supplies."
4. CLAIM: NURSES GOT NO 'HANDS-ON' TRAINING
"There was no mandate for nurses to attend training," Burger said, though they did receive an e-mail about a hospital seminar on Ebola. "This was treated like hundreds of other seminars that were routinely offered to staff," she said.
5. CLAIM: THE NURSES 'FEEL UNSUPPORTED'
So why did the group of nurses -- the union wouldn't say how many -- contact the nursing union, which they don't belong to? According to National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro, the nurses were upset after authorities appeared to blame nurse Pham, who has contracted Ebola, for not following protocols.
"This nurse was being blamed for not following protocols that did not exist. ... The nurses in that hospital were very angry, and they decided to contact us," DeMoro said. And they're worried conditions at the hospital "may lead to infection of other nurses and patients," Burger said.
ABOUT NATIONAL NURSES UNITED...
National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in U.S. history. NNU was founded in 2009 unifying three of the most active, progressive organizations in the U.S.-and the major voices of unionized nurses-in the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, and Massachusetts Nurses Association.
Combining the unparalleled record of accomplishments for nurses and patients embodied in the proud history of those nurses associations, which for some span more than 100 years, the establishment of NNU brought to life the dream of a powerful, national movement of direct care RNs.
At its founding convention in December, 2009, NNU adopted a call for action premised on the principles intended to counter the national assault by the healthcare industry on patient care conditions and standards for nurses, and to promote a unified vision of collective action for nurses with campaigns to:
Advance the interests of direct care nurses and patients across the U.S.
Organize all direct care RNs "into a single organization capable of exercising influence over the healthcare industry, governments, and employers."
Promote effective collective bargaining representation to all NNU affiliates to promote the economic and professional interests of all direct care RNs.
Expand the voice of direct care RNs and patients in public policy, including the enactment of safe nurse to patient ratios and patient advocacy rights in Congress and every state.
Win "healthcare justice, accessible, quality healthcare for all, as a human right."
In its first year, NNU made some spectacular achievements, including:
Organizing 6,500 RNs into NNU in Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, and Texas.
Sharing collective bargaining resources and experiences to support major collective bargaining campaigns in Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington DC, and other sites.
Sponsoring major national legislation to promote comprehensive reform for patient safety and professional nursing practice, including RN-to-patient ratios modeled on the successful California law sponsored by NNU affiliate CNA.
Strengthening the voice of RNs in the national healthcare reform debate, and in electoral campaigns from coast to coast.
Most notably, CNA/NNOC sponsored the nation's foremost RN patient safety law, in California, requiring minimum RN-to-patient ratios, the most effective solution in the U.S. for stemming the erosion of care standards in hospitals.
NNU affiliate members are renown as leading advocates of guaranteed healthcare by expanding and updating Medicare to cover all Americans, for negotiating many of the best collective bargaining contracts for RNs in the nation, and for sponsorship of innovative legislation and regulatory protections for patients and nurses.
The People Speak has evolved over the years with many great guests who have been interviewed by some very fine hosts.
We are a 55 minute show airing every other Sunday between 5-6pm Pacific/8-9pm Eastern. The show features a guest interview from any number of realms of interest (entertainment, science, philosophy, healing, spirituality, activism, politics, literature, etc.).
The guests share their stories, lives, strategies, books, philosophy, films, music, or whatever it is they use as a vehicle for making a difference for the better.
The radio show name, The People Speak, is based on the idea of allowing our audience - the People - a chance to interact with the guests during the hour, and we take phone or text questions from them during the interview.
Past guests include such notables as Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the late Howard Zinn, Nobel Laureates Mairead Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Kathryn Najimy, Oliver Stone, Jesse Ventura, Richard Belzer, Cynthia McKinney, Cindy Sheehan, Scott Horton, Joan Jett, Willie Nelson, George Galloway, Roseanne Barr, Ed Asner, Chevy Chase, as well as various reps from Amnesty International, UN World Food Programme, and many others.