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Nurses say hospital told them not to wear donated protective masks

Posted at 8:20 AM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 07:19:08-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. — A nurses association has filed a complaint with the state after a West Michigan hospital allegedly told nursing staff they're not allowed to wear donated protective masks.

The Michigan Nurses Association claims that this weekend administrators at the Hackley campus of Mercy Health Partners told registered nurses that they "could not use" donated N95 masks.

The association said today it filed its complaint with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“It’s outrageous that a hospital doesn’t have enough proper masks to protect us, and yet, it tells us not to use our own,” said Tom Goodman, an emergency department RN.

“Nurses are putting our health and safety on the line every day during this pandemic, and it’s not okay to deny us the protection we need. If we can’t use the donated masks, what is the point?”

Nurses have been by using N95 masks "donated by other unions and community members" to protect themselves against the coronavirus, the association said.

“It’s sad that we can count on the community to protect us, but we can’t count on our own hospital,” said Justin Howe, an ICU RN and president of the Mercy Health Partners RN Staff Council, an affiliate of the nurses association.

“We want to thank other local unions and the community for having our backs.”

Mercy Health responded to the claim with a statement this morning:

"We continue to appreciate everyone’s support of our Mercy Health staff. Our team of physicians, nurses and support employees continue to be on the front line of trying to serve many in our community. The safety of our staff and patients is our top priority. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is being used by those who specifically require it. Mercy Health continues to follow PPE use for staff according to CDC and OSHA guidelines to ensure the health and safety of our staff and patients. For additional information please refer to the”

In an interview FOX 17, chief medical officer Dr. Justin Grill said staff are not being required to throw the masks away. However, staff are being asked to get fit-tested. Also, Grill said Mercy Health Muskegon really can't accept homemade PPE.

He says staff can bring N95 masks from home but are asked to make sure they comply with CDC guidelines.