Michigan Coronavirus: MI Nurses Association claims UPHS isn’t working with nurses to prepare for COVID-19


MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Michigan Nurses Association claims U.P. Health System-Marquette is not working with its nurses to prepare for the COVID-19 crisis and forcing up to 100 of them off work without pay despite jobs at the hospital they could be doing right now.

Local 3 News has reached out to UP Health System – Marquette for comment and is waiting for a response.

“We know the COVID-19 crisis is just around the corner for us here in Marquette and it’s urgent that our hospital is getting ready for it instead of abandoning our nurses,” said Stephanie DePetro, an OR nurse and president of the MGH RN Staff Council, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association. “Instead of having trained RNs screening people who come into the hospital for signs of COVID-19, the hospital is having others perform this vital task – when they even bother to perform it at all. Lack of proper screening at entrances is putting our nurses, patients and community at risk. Now is not the time for UPHS to try to increase its profits. UPHS needs to step up and do the right thing for our nurses so we can keep our community safe now and as the COVID-19 crisis worsens in the U.P.”

In a press release the association says the personal protective equipment situation is also dire. Only some nurses are currently being issued an N95 mask. Even those who receive N95s are instructed to use it repeatedly. The masks are supposed to be used only once.

The nurses’ union has proposed an agreement with the hospital that covers protections for nurses that the hospital has not responded to, including:

  • Providing paid time off to nurses who contract COVID-19 or have to self-quarantine
  • Exempting nurses in vulnerable categories, including those who are immunocompromised or pregnant, from treating patients with COVID
  • Clear and consistent screening protocols that adhere to best practices

The association goes on to day that despite having less resources than many private health corporations such as UPHS, public health departments in Macomb, Oakland, and Ingham counties have all made written guarantees to provide paid time off to every RN who contracts COVID-19 and other benefits that will protect nurses as they work to protect the public. Michigan Medicine has done the same.

The nurses’ union is also proposing a bank of paid leave for the nearly 100 nurses who UPHS executives have forced off work without pay instead of providing with other jobs at the hospital, such as screening those coming in to the hospital. Nurses should be doing the screening because they have the clinical judgement and the ability to do an accurate assessment of people as they enter the building.

In addition, nurses could be being trained right now for dealing with COVID-1 patients, before the hospital gets hit hard.

The bank of paid leave time proposed by the union would serve as a bridge so nurses can make ends meet until they are recalled to duty once the COVID-19 crisis inevitably hits UPHS.

“While we greatly appreciate the donations and support from the community, nurses need much more from UPHS if we’re going to stay safe and keep the community safe,” said Suzette Hantz, RN. “We need to keep our nurses right here at home now because they will be needed very soon, and the hospital should be training them right now. The hospital needs to step up to the plate because the community and the nurses will suffer if it is not prepared.”

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