On Thursday night, 6 of our Nurse Council members sat down for an intimate discussion with the Secretary of Health Rachel Levine as well as her Deputy Secretary Susan Coble, and staff.
Members of the council had the opportunity to provide critical feedback to the recent orders that were released from the Department of Health and Education over the last few weeks and offer practical solutions to address their shortcomings.
On the call, our hospital nurse council members Michelle and Starr lifted up the need for providers to have transparency around their stockpile of PPE who are keeping masks and gowns locked away from nurses. The Secretary agreed that they need to take action to get greater clarity from employers on how much PPE they have and where there is a need for more so they can allocate remaining stockpile resources of maks and face shields.
The DOH will be working to increase participation from Hospitals and Nursing Homes in their mask clearing program (Battell System) that has the capacity to sanitize 85,000 masks a day and is being underutilized by employers.
For our K-12 schools, that will be opening in just a few short months, our newest council member, Marguerite, raised a number of concerns around short staffing, the impossibility of conducting daily screenings for all students and the need for uniformity in health guidance across school districts. In response, the DOH agreed to schedule a special call for school nurses with their new Chief of the Division for School Health – Colleen Shultz in two weeks. We will send out details ASAP!
For the long term care industry, Kimberly asked about how the Department of Health will hold employers accountable to completing the mandatory round of testing by July 24th. The Secretary and her staff shared an escalation plan to ensure compliance with the order- including additional guidance being released next week, following up with employers in high density areas, and finally sending in staff and even the national guard to complete the tests if they have to.
Throughout the call, our nurse council team stressed the importance of protecting nurses who whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. Although the Department of Health does not deal directly with labor issues, we encouraged her staff to make communication to the Department of Labor and Industry, a regular part of their investigations when they suspect retaliation could be involved for the worker. As we continue in our dialogues we expect to continue to drive our demand for anti-retaliation and strengthen protections for nurses who do the right thing.
If you need to make a complaint/report a violation to the department of health- please use this online form or call the DOH at 1-800-254-5164.
Finally, we asked for a commitment from the Department of Health to offer concrete timelines on when we can expect action on our core priorities so that we can hold them accountable to our 25,000 strong in Nurses of PA. We will be continuing to follow up with the Secretary to get answers on these issues and we will continue to drive the conversation in our next statewide call in July. Stay tuned for our upcoming statewide call dates in the coming weeks.