Nurses union: RI lacking Ebola protocol, equipment

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Despite assurances from local hospital, health, and government officials that Rhode Island is ready should an Ebola case present itself in the state, the union representing thousands of nurses in Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut have a very different take.

Linda McDonald, president of United Nurses and Allied Professionals, said while it’s a very fluid situation, nurses in Rhode Island feel they have not had enough training nor the proper equipment to handle an Ebola case.

“I want to stress that we do not feel that in this state we have had or do have the proper protective equipment. We are talking about full body suit and hood that protects us,” said McDonald, a registered nurse, who added that the protective suits have been ordered, but at last check had not arrived.

She also said nurses would like to see anterooms, which are rooms attached to isolation rooms where staff can take equipment on and off and be decontaminated.

“Those anterooms are just being made now. So, that is why we are saying we are not prepared,” she said.

ebola map
Timeline: See history of Ebola outbreaks

McDonald also said until recently there have been no drills to practice putting on and taking off protective gear. She added there is a lack of universal protocol when it comes to handling waste disposal and lab specimens, as well as transporting patients from the emergency room to isolation rooms.

“We want the safest equipment, supplies and procedures to make sure we are safe, the public is safe and the patients are safe,” McDonald said.

When asked about the statements by the Rhode Island Health Department and various hospital officials, who have all insisted the state’s hospitals were prepared, McDonald said there was a disconnect between administration and the front lines.

“We are all working in this together, but we do not feel that we have been ready. We think we’re moving towards it,” she said. “Things are very different today than they were yesterday and we feel there is more response and more dialogue going on.”

Eyewitness News reached out to state officials about McDonald’s comments.

Faye Zuckerman, Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s spokeswoman, said the governor was disappointed.

“The State of Rhode Island has been working hard for a number of months on being prepared for Ebola. Our good work has been given national attention. We are on the forefront of preparedness,” Zuckerman said in a statement.

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