ICU Nurse Suspended For Crowdfunding Masks & Gowns For Under-Equipped Coworkers
Newark, NJ – A nurse at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center was suspended on Saturday for distributing “unauthorized” protective gear at the hospital.
Matievskaya raised $12,485 and was able to initially buy 500 masks, 4,000 shoe covers, and 150 jumpsuits for her and her co-workers, mostly by making purchases on eBay.
She shared the equipment and distributed the personal protective equipment (PPE) amongst her colleagues, who celebrated the success of her fundraising efforts, ProPublica reported.
But the hospital administration did not appreciate the intensive care nurse’s extraordinary efforts.
Instead of congratulating Matievskaya, the hospital suspended her on April 4, according to ProPublica.
“No employee is allowed to distribute unauthorized medical supplies within the hospital,” Newark Beth Israel Medical Center told the publication in a statement. “The nurse in question was temporarily suspended for inappropriately distributing unauthorized medical supplies, against this policy.”
The hospital claimed that they had given hospital staff the supplies they needed, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, but those things weren’t necessarily the same as what the nurses wanted.
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Dr. Matthew Schreiber told ProPublica the hospital has provided staff with PPE “that the staff require, which is at times not the same as the [PPE] that people want to have. There’s lots of items people may bring from somewhere else.”
Newark Beth Israel’s chairman of board of trustees, however, said that was not the case.
Francis Giantomasi told ProPublica that PPE “are in short supply everywhere and needed by everyone.”
“That’s a serious, troubling, undeniable reality,” Giantomasi added.
The hospital has claimed they made sure that clinicians had what they needed and were utilizing CDC guidance regarding reusing gear, ProPublica reported.
“We are working 24-hours a day, 7-days a week to ensure that the appropriate PPE gets to the right staff, at the right time,” Newark Beth Israel said in its statement.
Four other nurses who work at the hospital told ProPublica on the condition of anonymity that frequently they have not been given N95 masks to wear, as was recommended by the CDC.
One of the ICU nurses told ProPublica that one time she was given a regular surgical mask and said it felt “like putting a paper towel over your face.”
They also said that some of the nurses who work outside of the ICU were given a brown paper bag containing a single surgical mask and told that they were expected to make it last for an entire week.
The nurses said the gown shortage at the facility has led medical staff to start leaving gowns on a hook inside infected patients’ rooms so they have something to wear the next time they enter, according to ProPublica.
One nurse said a staff member had to wear a patient gown with a bedsheet to treat an infected patient.
The ICU nurses told ProPublica that some nurses are taking care of coronavirus patients and regular patients, but are not given fresh gowns to wear when they go from room to room.
“We understand this is what we signed up for,” one ICU nurse said. “Just provide us with sufficient [protective equipment] so we can give these patients the optimal care that they need, and so we aren’t contaminating others or ourselves.”
The nurses said they believe COVID-19 is being spread all over the hospital by the protective gear they’re wearing from room to room.
“We are spreading it, and we are getting it,” one of the nurses told ProPublica.
Aline Holmes, a clinical associate professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing, said was “very surprised” to hear Newark Beth Israel had suspended Matievskaya, although she was unfamiliar with the details of the case.
At a time when hospital administrators are having to force doctors and nurses to reuse protective gear, punishing a nurse who took initiative “doesn’t make any sense,” Holmes said.
“That just seems counterintuitive and really not a good message to send to your staff,” Holmes said. “The staff have a right to protect themselves. If the hospital can’t provide the necessary supplies, they have a right to do what they need to do. They’re caring for the sickest patients in the hospital right now.”
Matievskaya would not comment on her suspension but was returned to duty on Monday, ProPublica reported.