UPDATE, 5:30pm, 4/9/20: The hospital sent a “clarification email” to staff Thursday afternoon that hospital health workers may now wear their own N95 masks in common areas, but that they must put a hospital issued surgical mask over it. The email outlined the hospital’s new policy in minute detail. Scroll to the bottom of this story to read the email and new policy in full.
Maui Memorial Hospital again has reversed its mask policy and disciplined a nurse Thursday for refusing to comply.
The new policy again forbids personnel from wearing their own personal protective equipment (PPE). Instead, it now requires staff to check into the hospital’s emergency room before their shifts to have their temperatures taken. They are then issued two yellow surgical masks to wear during their twelve hour shifts.
These masks are normally used to protect patients and mask wearers from droplets and are discarded after one-time use. In contrast, longer use N95 masks insulate the person wearing it from airborne particles, protecting both worker and patient.
Intensive care unit nurse Josh Masslon told MauiTime that he was “pulled aside for refusing to remove [his own] medical grade N95 mask in a crowded hospital hallway. I was told to remove the mask. I did not. I was not permitted to report to work in the ICU. I was taken to Human Resources and waited for three-and-a-half hours. With union backing, management changed its mind and said I could return to work with an N95.”
It’s unknown whether the hospital has now changed directions again, or whether the policy change applied only to Masslon. The new policy came within 24 hours of Wednesday’s announcement that 15 hospital health workers had been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, with many others possibly exposed through contact. Prior to that, the hospital had permitted staff to wear their own PPE — a decision made March 30 after health workers complained that they were forbidden to wear any PPE in hospital “common areas,” such as the cafeteria, hallways, nurses’ stations and elevators. Health workers said this policy failed to protect both staff and patients.
But yesterday, following the announcement of the 15 new cases, health workers were instructed to stop using their own PPE and told to go to various areas of the hospital to have their temperatures taken.
“The choices made by the administration have created an atmosphere where some of us feel threatened, “said one health worker, who declined to be named because of hospital policy against speaking publicly and from fear of retaliation. “We are dealing with the public and we’re trying to serve them. But right now, we do not trust [hospital administration’s] decision-making policies. They are causing great disharmony.”
Lt. Gov. Josh Green told MauiTime Thursday that he was aware of the situation and was “communicating” with hospital administration.
MauiTime reached out to the hospital for comment, but spokeswoman Lisa Paulson regularly ignores those requests.
The worker said the latest decision left staff confused and angry. “The nurses aren’t sure which direction to take. We want to be in service, yet we’re in a place right now where we cannot actually serve with confidence.”
Hospital workers found out yesterday about the 15 new COVID-19 cases through media reports. “The nurses weren’t aware, our managers were not aware and staff was not aware,” the worker said. “That created a lot of animosity.”
Read the hospital’s “clarification email” sent to staff Thursday afternoon below. Double click the images to view the full size. Attached to the email was a graphic.
More COVID-19 coverage at https://mauitime.com/maui-county-corona-virus-updates/