WSNA continues to address the concerns raised by members like you as nurses across the state fight the coronavirus pandemic. Our advocacy with hospitals, state officials, Washington’s congressional delegation and in the media is paying off.
Here are updates on recent key efforts to deliver the resources and support you need to serve your patients and keep yourselves safe.
Major win to prohibit use of carcinogen for PPE sterilization #
Nurses at some WSNA represented facilities reported respirators and face masks being collected for reprocessing using ethylene oxide to decontaminate. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that ethylene oxide is carcinogenic to humans and that exposure to ethylene oxide increases the risk of lymphoid cancer and, for females, breast cancer. WSNA sent cease and desist letters demanding an immediate halt to the reusing of any face masks, including N‑95 and other respirators, that have been decontaminated by the ethylene oxide cleaning process. In addition, WSNA reported this hazard to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
As a result of our advocacy, L&I issued this DOSH Hazard Alert with the following directive:
Hospitals and clinics are required to use their ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilizer systems for their intended and manufacturer-approved purposes. EtO sterilizer systems must NOT be used to sterilize masks, respirators, PPE or items worn by humans.
Stand with Nurses and Health Care Workers petition and advocacy #
On March 26, WSNA, SEIU 1199 and UFCW 21 launched a joint petition calling on hospitals to address key issues of concern to our members, including PPE, hazard pay, work accommodations and paid leave if exposed to COVID-19 at work. Our goal was to raise awareness, gather data we could bring to employers and the media, and show a united front as health care unions in calling for priority issues, including PPE, hazard pay, work accommodations, and paid leave if exposed at work. Since the launch of the petition, we have gathered more than 18,000 signatures and have achieved a number of victories on our issues:
- More than twenty COVID-19 agreements (memorandum of understanding) secured across the state. Highlights of provisions achieved include:
- Paid administrative leave when quarantined
- Immediate access to EIT/PTO
- Timely notification (“within 8 hours,” “as soon as possible”) of exposure
- Maintenance of health insurance if unable to work
- Float premiums ($4-$10/hr)
- Additional bank of paid emergency time off hours
Please be sure to reference memorandum of understanding reached at your facility for details.
- On April 10, Gov. Inslee sent a Memorandum on workers’ compensation clearly defining new conditions including:
- assuming any COVID-19 exposure occurred on the job unless there is clear evidence otherwise
- the state will pay for medical and time-loss costs for quarantine period regardless of final diagnosis
- provides relief for employers who have workers utilize this benefit, disincentivizing employers from telling their nurses and health care workers that they became sick through“community exposure”
- On April 13, Gov. Inslee issued a Proclamation protecting high-risk employees that guarantees:
- workers over age 65 and workers with underlying health conditions can choose an alternative work assignment
- use accrued leave or unemployment benefits (with mandated employer-maintained health coverage) if alternative work assignment is not feasible
- prohibits employers from permanently replacing high-risk workers (meaning workers who need protection now must be given their job back when this is over)
We have made our voices heard on these issues, and we are continuing to raise our voice and advocate for our members’ needs.
- April 3 virtual press conference on need for PPE with health care unions and Sen. Patty Murray
- April 8 joint statement with unions calling on hospitals and health systems to provide hazard pay
- April 17 press release from WSNA and our union partners, calling for action on PPE and hazard pay, including quotes from members + social media push
- April 22 WSNA statement on PPE and elective surgeries
See the list of recent media articles further down in this email.
WSNA members meeting with congressional delegation
Members of Congress need to hear from nurses working on the frontlines in health care facilities in their districts. WSNA has been facilitating video conference meetings between nurses and their members of Congress around the state. These listening sessions are an opportunity for our congressional delegation to hear about your experiences on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During these meetings, nurses are sharing their experiences and concerns with lack of PPE, inadequate COVID testing, and – in light of these unsafe working conditions – are asking for hazard pay.
So far, WSNA members have met with Congressman Derek Kilmer (7th CD), Congressman Adam Smith (9th CD), Congressman Dan Newhouse (4th CD), Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (1st CD), Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (7th CD) and Congressman Denny Heck (10th CD). Additional meetings are scheduled for later this week and next week.
Email your federal elected representatives.
Congress is discussing a fourth COVID stimulus package – add your voice by asking them to protect nurses and other health care workers by including funding for:
- Adequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Accessible and accurate COVID-19 testing
- Hazard pay that recognizes the dangerous situation without proper PPE and testing
Email your member of Congress (it takes less than 2 minutes).
Special message from WSNA President Lynnette Vehrs to our nurses
In case you missed it, our WSNA president shared a video message on Facebook and YouTube.
Our advocacy doesn’t stop at the bedside. WSNA is recruiting for delegates to attend the virtual Washington state labor council’s COPE Endorsing Convention on Saturday, May 16. This is your chance to have your voice and your vote count on congressional, statewide, state legislative and judicial candidates, plus state ballot measures.
It’s also a chance to support one of our own WSNA members in her race for the state senate. Ingrid Anderson is a former ED/current behavioral health nurses running for State Senate in the 5th legislative district.
We all know how important it is to have nurses at the table where decisions are made and since there is currently no nurse in the WA State Senate, now is the time to put one there to speak knowledgeably about nursing issues. If you want to become a delegate and can commit to being available on May 16, email firstname.lastname@example.org today.
Check out the following coverage of WSNA’s advocacy in the media. #
SEATTLE TIMES: Doctors, hospitals urge Inslee to restart elective procedures as COVID-19 patient numbers decline (4/28/20)
KIRO 7: Hospitals push to resume elective surgeries (4/28/20)
KUOW: ‘We’re going to run out of masks’: Health care workers push back on restarting elective surgeries (4/24/20)
KREM 2: Washington nurses call for more protective gear before restarting elective surgeries (4/23/20)
KING5: Washington nurses call for more protective gear before restarting elective surgeries (4/23/20)
KNDU TV: Nurses and health care workers call for action for PPE and hazard pay (4/17/20)
KHQ SPOKANE: Washington nurses, health care workers call for hazard pay in response to PPE shortage (4/17/20)
NEXTSHARK: Washington Teens to Supply Over 30,000 Masks to Frontline Medical Workers (4/17/20)
NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW: In echo of China, US medics silenced on coronavirus concerns (4/12/20)