The North Dakota nurses union has rejected a policy that would allow COVID-19 positive nurses to continue taking care of patients at hospitals and nursing homes in the state if they are not symptomatic.
The North Dakota Nurses Association released a statement on Wednesday, wherein it stated that the current policy by the government does not address the root challenges faced by the state in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the association called for a statewide mask mandate and other safety protocols to be implemented.
“NDNA recommends that all other public health measures to reduce the demand on the health care system and address staffing shortages are deployed before implanting this particular strategy,” the nurses’ association said.
The association said the public might lose trust in the nurses and proceed to term the pandemic a hoax if COVID-19-positive nurses kept on treating patients.
“Nurses are very highly trusted in our community, and if we are saying we can go back to work after testing positive, how do we expect the public to take this pandemic seriously?” Tessa Johnson, president of the North Dakota Nurses Association, stated.
Johnson added that nurses had had their fair share of the devastating impact from the pandemic, which has caused them to be at their wit’s end. She said that with nurses having their back up against the wall, the new policy might cause the state to lose more nurses to the pandemic.
However, Johnson said the nurses would hang on and fight, including showing up to work every day without the availability of PPE, because that’s what nurses do – they put themselves at risk to treat patients.
A statement by Gov. Doug Burgum on Monday had brought the new policy to the fore. Burgum announced that the policy was a way to take the pressure off hospitals that are understaffed and overwhelmed by the increasing rate of infections in the state that has surged recently, Daily Beast reports.
North Dakota, one of the states in the country without a mask mandate, currently top the charts of states worst hit by the virus. If the coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents are taken into account, then the state is currently top amongst states most affected by coronavirus infections.
While the state’s health department has regularly put out recommendations on safety protocols such as mask-wearing and social distancing, critics have criticized its inability to enforce mandatory policies on these recommendations.
The North Dakota nurses association said that while the current move by the state government may be sanctioned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention crisis guidelines, that decision should be left to the nurses to decide for themselves, and not hospital management.
According to the CDC, it approves healthcare workers to stay back at work even when tested positive for COVID-19, as far they’re not showing symptoms of the disease. This policy becomes more advocated when healthcare facilities are facing severe staff shortages.