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Originally published November 12 2014

Nurses threaten to stage strikes to protest lack of protection while treating Ebola patients

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) It's about to get much harder to treat Ebola patients in the United States, if nurses nationwide are prepared to walk off their jobs because they feel that they aren't being adequately protected from contracting the virus.

As reported by Reuters, a nurses union based in California announced October 30 that it planned to organize strikes and other disruptive protests in order to bring attention to complaints about insufficient protection for nurses and other healthcare providers who have been, and may be in the future, charged with caring for Ebola patients. The newswire service continued:

The nurses have demanded better protection when treating Ebola patients for weeks, ever since two nurses in Texas became infected with the virus while treating Thomas Duncan, a Liberian who fell ill and died while visiting Dallas.

"Nurses, who have been willing to stand by the patients whether it's the flu, whether it's Ebola, whether it's cancer, now they're being asked to put themselves in harm's way unprotected, unguarded," Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United, based in Oakland, told reporters.

'Claims are simply untrue'

Her group, along with the California Nurses Association (CNA), have said that their members would leave their jobs November 12, if need be, at 66 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and healthcare facilities in California, as well as Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Besides the planned walk-outs, many nurses at other hospitals around the country are planning to stage protests of their own on the same day -- Nov. 12 -- which will include picketing and holding bake sales to raise funds for hazmat suits and other gear, said DeMoro.

The majority of those who are planning to protest -- some 18,000 nurses -- are employees of Kaiser Permanente in Northern and Central California, Reuters reported. At present, the nurses unions are in the midst of tough negotiations for a new labor contract.

Gay Westfall, human resources director for Kaiser, has said that the mega non-profit, managed care organization is very well-resourced to deal with any Ebola outbreak. She added that protocols are in place, as well as the protective gear that meets or exceeds federal standards.

"The claims CNA is making about Kaiser Permanente's Ebola preparedness, in an attempt to justify a strike, are simply untrue," she said, according to Reuters.

The current nursing labor contract expired at the end of October, the newswire said.

'We want stricter standards'

As far as "federal guidelines" are concerned, those have certainly changed a great deal since the Ebola outbreak came to the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, once a very respected federal health agency, has seen its reputation suffer after a series of gaffes and misstatements by its director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, who has gone on record blaming the first healthcare workers in the U.S. to contract the virus -- a pair of nurses in Dallas -- for their infections. Frieden said they had not followed CDC protocol; nursing unions around the country responded by noting that a number of healthcare facilities did not have proper gear and had not implemented proper treatment protocols (which have changed repeatedly since the outbreak).

In early October, the CDC boosted its recommendations for personal protective gear to include full-body hazmat suits with hoods that cover the neck and all open-skinned areas. Also, the agency asked that healthcare workers wash their hands more often and that there be someone appointed to oversee the proper disposal of infected equipment -- steps that experts said should have been adopted much sooner.

Still, nursing advocates say that there should be even stricter measures -- and that they should be standardized in every health institution. In that vein, the nurses' union has begun circulating a petition that asks Congress or President Obama to set or declare a national standard.

"We want something where a virus cannot penetrate anywhere from head to toe in the nurse's body," DeMoro said.

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