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More hospital safety cuts could exacerbate COVID-19 pandemic, nurses union warns

Photo: Juanmonino/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — Pushing back on calls to roll back certain workplace safety rules, National Nurses United contends hospital industry cost-cutting has put health care worker safety at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the “current staffing and capacity crises.”

“For many years, hospital industry executives have carried out hospital closures, cuts in ‘less profitable’ patient services, reductions in staffing of registered nurses and other frontline caregivers, and minimal inventory of essential supplies from medicine to personal protective equipment,” NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said in a recent press release. “Now we’re seeing the inevitable consequence of these profit-driven schemes.”

The nation’s largest union and professional association of direct care registered nurses, NNU points out that the deadly pandemic has led to unprecedented patient capacity in hospitals along with nurses facing the risks of infection, burnout and increased stress while caring for COVID-19 patients without proper PPE or other necessary infection control practices in place.

“Even in the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing a continuation of these strategies with ongoing hospital closures, layoffs and other reductions that are sacrificing patient safety, the life-saving protections their frontline nurses and other staff need, and readiness for the remainder of this pandemic and all the next crises to come,” Castillo said.

NNU, which represents more than 150,000 members nationwide, is calling on hospital trade groups and industry executives to focus their efforts on the needs of patients and staff and reverse the aforementioned cost-cutting practices and priorities.


In the release, Castillo condemns industry decision-makers for “demanding blanket waivers for reduced safety standards on safe staffing, proper staff licensure, stockpiles of PPE and other supplies, and a further ability to slash less profitable patient services, all of which they hope will be permanent cuts.”

Castillo adds: “Lean industry practices slashed preparedness. They treat safe staffing and needed supplies as a drag on budget goals and profit margins, rather than the prerequisite for a humane, fully prepared, patient-oriented health care system.”

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