GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP (WJRT) (3/24/2020) - They're being asked to stand on the front lines and help treat patients with COVID-19. But, a group of nurses at Ascension Genesys said the Grand Blanc Township hospital is not prioritizing their safety.
Their Teamsters Union Local 332 filed a grievance on their behalf Tuesday.
The nurses said the hospital is picking and choosing who wears the personal protection equipment.
ABC12 has been reporting a shortage of personal protection equipment across the country for weeks. But the Teamsters said at Ascension Genesys they have the equipment, they're holding it back from the registered nurses and technicians.
Union President Nina Bugbee told ABC12, "It's a hot mess over there."
"This feels like a war zone," she explained. "And I know it's, we're treading new water here. And I don't think it's time to fight. I'm not here - the unions are not here at this time to fight with the companies. It's not time to have that fight. We have a common denominator; and it's the patients we serve, the community we serve. And, we need to be working collaboratively."
Bugbee said Ascension Genesys is not making the health and safety of the registered nurses and technicians a priority.
She explained Ascension Genesys told her they're conserving their personal protection equipment, preparing for a possible surge of patients. But, Bugbee considers it rationing.
She and other union representatives have received a number of complaints from union members over the last several days.
They all agree when the nurses don't feel comfortable doing their job, it's difficult for them to focus on doing their job properly.
"We want take care of everybody, but we can't take care of them if we aren't taken care of," Kimberly Cox, the Teamsters Union Chief Steward said. "If we as nurses all get sick, whose going to take care of the ones that are sick already? And, who's going to take care of the sick nurses? We have to be able to have a defensive line for us to be able to stay in control and be able to treat and help our patients. Without that, it's going to be a never ending fight."
The Teamsters received a donation of the coveted N95 masks Tuesday from a local business.
While Bugbee is grateful, she said this isn't how they should be receiving masks.
One Ascension Genesys nurse told ABC12 she could be walked off the job if she were to wear one of those to work.
"They will only issue them to the COVID ICU and COVID floor nurses and staff," the woman explained. "The entire ER staff has N95s, which Genesys has given out at the beginning of their shift."
The nurse asked to not be identified. She feared losing her job, if the hospital found out she spoke up.
But, she said, she's only saying something because her fellow nurses' and their families' health could be jeopardized.
The nurse told ABC12 no one else gets to wear a mask.
She'd like to have protection in the hallways, where she said, she may pass an asymptomatic nurse or patient.
She added that they can't even wear masks they bring in from home.
"So if we have a brand that the hospital isn't using or hasn't received or isn't given out, management comes around and tells you to take it off," she said ."And if you don't, I have heard from nurses and nurse aides that they have been essentially walked out of Genesys for refusing to remove their masks."
She understands there might not be enough personal protection equipment to go around. That's why, she said, the nurses want to bring in their own.
"I think for me personally, I'm not afraid to take care of COVID-19 positive patients. But, I want to feel protected and I want to feel that Genesys is on our side," she said.
ABC12 reached out to Ascension Genesys. In a statement the hospital says "The safety of our caregivers and patients is our utmost priority as we all work to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and care for all those in need. We are following the updated CDC guidelines regarding the use of personal protective equipment."
If you'd like to donate to the Ascension Genesys registered nurses and technicians, you can call the Teamsters at (810) 767-7330.