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Arizona Nurses Association: Personal protective equipment is top concern for nurses across Arizona

Posted at 5:51 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 21:38:23-04

Personal protective equipment is the top concern for nurses across Arizona amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to the association that advocates on their behalf.

FULL COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Arizona

ABC15 has also heard from numerous healthcare workers, wishing to remain anonymous, about the lack of, or restricted access to, personal protective equipment.

The Arizona Nurses Association recently put out a COVID-19 survey to nurses across the state. Roughly 1,300 responded.

"The general message was nurses are most concerned about PPE, personal protective equipment," said Robin Schaeffer, executive director of the Arizona Nurses Association.

Several healthcare workers have told ABC15 they are having a tough time accessing personal protective equipment. One Valley ER nurse said where she works, she can only use an N95 mask if a patient is placed in isolation.

She said her problem with that is people with coronavirus symptoms can walk into the ER, and by the time they are back in isolation, she feels she and her coworkers will have already been exposed.

"What we are hearing, through the nurse’s association, through the survey, is similar to what you are hearing," Schaeffer said. "Nurses don't feel protected 100% of the time, especially in an emergency room when you're not sure who's coming through the door and the masks are being selectively given out as the managers think appropriate. Which makes a lot of sense. We're not sure who is infected and so as nurses, we're afraid."

Schaeffer told ABC15 the association is in conversation with local, state and federal officials, sending the message they need more protective equipment.

"We have heard varying reports from nurses, many of them are very scared," Schaeffer said. "They are scared because they don't want to bring [COVID-19] home to their families."

Over the weekend, Governor Ducey announced a shipment of protective equipment, including masks and gowns, had arrived in Arizona from the National Strategic Stockpile. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, another shipment is expected by the end of the month.

Additionally, this week, state leaders have said roughly 250,000 N95 masks are expected to come to Arizona next week, as they work with private and commercial partners.

"I can honestly say that the healthcare community is just as scared as the population," Schaeffer said. "However, we care for patients because we need to and we are there for them every step of the way."

Schaeffer also said nurses are seeking help from the public to help them in preventing the spread of COVID-19, like practicing social distancing, and helping protect healthcare workers from also getting sick.