On Friday, President Barack Obama took action to respond to the Ebola crisis and soothe fears of an outbreak in the United States. After one patient died from the virus and 2 nurses caring for him tested positive for it, panic began to spread throughout the country that hospitals were unprepared to treat patients with the virus and that a lack of protocols could expose others.
In response to pressures to appoint someone who would spearhead action to stem the Ebola crisis, the president announced Ron Klain would be the administration’s new Ebola “czar.” The choice has been a controversial one as Klain has no medical background. He formerly served as chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore.
National Nurses United (NNU), which has been outspoken about the gaps in Ebola preparedness at hospitals and the risk to nurses who care for patients with the virus, welcomes the appointment of a czar, but would like to see more steps taken.
“In a nation that is handcuffed by a fragmented, uncoordinated privately-run healthcare industry, only a direct mandate from the president or Congress to order hospitals to implement the highest possible standards and protocols will suffice to attack and eradicate the threat of Ebola in the US,” NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said in a statement.
The NNU is calling for Obama to use his executive authority to require all hospitals comply with the highest uniform, national safety standards. Those that fail to do so should face real penalties, such as the loss of Medicare funds, according to DeMoro and NNU.
“What we need is a real czar to assure public safety, not a communicator, and the power to cut the hospitals’ Medicare and Medicaid funding if they still refuse to adhere to those standards and leave their patients, nurses, and other caregivers at extreme risk,” DeMoro said.
Meanwhile, the California Nurses Association is using Ebola to negotiate a better contract with Kaiser Permanente (KP). The most recent demands from the nurses include better training for Ebola, more staffing, protective gear that goes beyond what is recommended by federal officials, and even a special life insurance policy, reported Kaiser Health News (which is not affiliated with KP).
The hospital system has not given into any of the demands, but it will roll out a new training program this week.