FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2020
Molly Homan, Director of Communications
Ohio Nurses Association
614-746-9914 | firstname.lastname@example.org
COLUMBUS – The Ohio Nurses Association (ONA) is committed to advocating for patients and for the best clinical environment to deliver care and the COVID-19 outbreak is no exception. The ONA is calling for the removal of barriers and a proactive approach to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ohio currently has three confirmed cases of the Coronavirus and it is important to act with diligence and urgency to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ohio nurses are advising the following actions to be taken in an effort to increase the likelihood of Covid-19 testing, reduce further contamination and curb public panic:
1) Enhance Transparency and Communication between health facilities and workers: Ohio nurses call on healthcare facilities be transparent with their COVID-19 plans and procedures with healthcare workers and provide timely communication with regional coordinators. Healthcare facilities must develop and convey their plans for if/when a patient exhibits symptoms of COVID-19. This education includes the most recent CDC guidelines, availability and usage of proper protective personal equipment, communication protocol, isolation procedure and protocol for monitoring and treating healthcare workers who may become exposed to the virus. The ONA has heard varying reports from Ohio nurses; some facilities are collaborating with nursing staff to implement COVID-19 response plans, while others are not forthcoming with information, leaving healthcare workers dangerously in the dark. Healthcare facilities must work diligently to ensure every nurse and healthcare professional has the protective equipment they need to be safeguarded from infection. Additionally, ONA is calling on healthcare leaders to ensure policies and plans are well communicated so that everyone knows exactly how to approach the outbreak in the safest way.
2) Protect workers, including those with little to no paid time off: Employers must follow CDC recommendations and allow employees to stay home while sick without fear of retaliation. Employees cannot be afraid to self-quarantine because of threats or fears of discipline for doing so. Nurses and other healthcare workers who were exposed to the COVID-19 virus especially cannot be penalized for following CDC recommendations, and the ONA stands firm that healthcare workers who were exposed to the virus at work should not be forced to use personal time off if isolation and/or quarantining is required post exposure. Ohio nurses are also calling on the state to develop a plan for financial aid for those workers who need to be quarantined and/or isolated because of possible COVID-19 infection. According to the Trust for America’s Health, 51% of Ohio’s workers do not have paid time off. Ohio workers should not have to choose between staying home to avoid infecting others or feeding their children.
3) Allow no-cost testing and telemedicine: Ohio nurses encourage Ohio to allow for free Coronavirus testing for those covered by Medicaid. Ohio must also call on private insurers to eliminate cost-sharing measures for Coronavirus testing to ease the financial burden on patients and increase the likelihood of testing. Additionally, we ask that Medicaid follow Medicare’s lead and allow for telemedicine to accommodate those who are sick or part of a high-risk group.
4) Continue public education, including the importance of conserving medical equipment: Ohio nurses are committed to educating the public and their patients by using resources to reduce panic and stigma. For example, the ONA recommends using the CDC’s site on reducing stigma surrounding the Coronavirus, and encouraging tactics associated with flu prevention to stop the spread of the COVID-19. Public education also includes the dissuading of the public from purchasing surgical masks. These particular masks will not contain the spread of Covid-19 and the mass purchasing of masks is leading to shortages for healthcare facilities.
5) Suspend non-essential large gatherings of healthcare workers: The ONA has suspended all in-person events in March 2020, and will continue to evaluate future programing as the situation develops. It’s of utmost importance that we protect the health of Ohio’s frontline healthcare workers by forgoing non-essential large in-person meetings. Healthcare workers are already at an increased risk of exposure; it is necessary to limit situations that would increase this risk.
We applaud the state of Ohio for communicating with healthcare, labor and other stakeholders, but also insist nurses be at the decision-making table to ensure Ohioans are protected and prepared for any potential coronavirus outbreaks. While we are confident Ohio’s registered nurses are ready to adapt to care for patients during this unprecedented time. Years of short staffing conditions in Ohio hospitals create additional challenges as we prepare for a potential influx of patients.
Nurses are committed to patient safety, are the last line of defense, and are the definitive patient advocate. With proper communication, protection, testing, resources and public education, we are confident Ohio will successfully manage this threat to Ohioans.
About ONA: Formed in 1904, the Ohio Nurses Association is a powerful network of registered nurses who are committed to advancing nursing through education, political action and workplace advocacy. ONA is the leading voice of the approximately 190,000 professional registered nurses in Ohio. To become a member of the Ohio Nurses Association, visit www.ohnurses.org.