Sally Watkins, executive director of the Washington State Nurses Association, made the following statement:
“The Washington State Nurses Association is pleased to see the thoughtful, collaborative, data-driven proclamation on the safe restart of health care surgeries and procedures issued by Governor Jay Inslee today.
“As stakeholders and participants in development of this new guidance, the Washington State Nurses Association recognizes the need to make procedures and screenings available to patients to address their health care needs and well-being. We do not want to experience unintended public health consequences that can come from such issues as delayed administration of vaccines, lack of access to reproductive health care or delayed diagnosis and treatment.
“We support the restart of these procedures in a safe manner that recognizes the ongoing national shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the need to maintain the safety of nurses and other health care workers, and the prudent maintenance of surge capacity for a potential resurgence of COVID-19.
“We have had nurses laid off or furloughed and are eager to see them be able to return to work – but safely.
“WSNA remains concerned about the limited availability, cleaning procedures and reuse of personal protective equipment such as surgical masks, N95 respirators and face shields. The ‘Contingency Care Phase’ guidelines, which allow for the extended use and reuse of protective equipment intended for single use must not become the new normal, for the safety of health care workers and patients alike. We urge the federal government to employ all available means to produce and secure personal protective equipment so that we can return to the science-based infection control guidance at the foundation of the ‘Conventional Care Phase’ at all health care facilities.
“WSNA will continue to monitor the on-the-ground experiences of our members, and we expect that the State will utilize the WA Health data reporting system to ensure hospitals and other health care facilities are adhering to the guidance issued today. The safety of nurses, health care workers and patients remain our top priority.
“Nurses and other health care workers have cared for patients through the COVID-19 crisis despite the lack of the protective equipment needed for their own safety as well as that of their patients and families. It is our duty and responsibility to honor their dedication by ensuring their safety and returning to conventional infection control protocols as quickly as possible.”