- OSHA Healthcare Advisor - http://blogs.hcpro.com/osha -

In your face on flu facemask protection

There is a nasty situation brewing for a California hospital because workers and management don’t see eye-to-eye—better make that face-to-face—on protection from pandemic influenza.

Nurses at Sutter Solano Medical Center, Vallejo, CA, have appealed to Cal/OSHA saying the hospital is miserly about providing N95 respirators and is inadequately isolating suspected novel influenza A H1N1 patients, reports the Times Herald, July 15 [1].

The hospital claims that it has at least 400 N95s on hand for pandemic use for its 250 nurses, and there is no shortage, according to the article.

The California Nurses Association, which filed the complaint on behalf of 10 nurses with respiratory illness, also calls into question the hospital’s policy on respirator reuse and training for proper fit.

The hospital points out that it has confirmed only two cases of H1N1 influenza since the outbreak began and that it offers respirator fit sessions each week.

Laying aside for the moment who is in the right, this situation shows how quickly mistrust about protecting staff members can go public.

What do you think the Sutter Solano employee absentee rate would be in the throes of a pandemic? And how that might make some news?

Have you communicated your pandemic influenza policy and respirator resources to employees? Do your employees trust that your facility is committed to ensuring proper workplace protection?

Or are you just crossing your fingers that this situation doesn’t happen to you?

For more information on influenza pandemic preparedness and N95 fit-testing plans, see the July issues of Briefings on Infection Control [2] and Medical Environment Update [3]. Also download Implementation and Planning for Respiratory Protection Programs in Healthcare Settings and Sample Supply Checklists for Pandemic Planning from the OSHA Healthcare Advisor Tools page. [4]