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Wednesday, March 3, 2021


Nurses suffering “in the trenches”

Jan 4, 2021

To the editor:
The New York State Office of Mental Health should be ashamed at the treatment front line nurses are receiving at the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Forensic Facility in New Hampton, New York. Seventy nurses care for extremely challenging forensic patients who come to us for evaluation or long-term treatment as remanded by the Courts.
When the Covid pandemic hit us last year, along with many other health facilities, we were caught off guard. We ran out of equipment and we struggled with an unknown disease that took the lives of some of our patients and staff. As the second wave approaches, we are faced with the realization that our administration is not concerned with the safety of the nurses.
For years, our nurses have worked in extremely cramped quarters. We do not have nursing stations as do the large medical hospitals. We are confined to small, windowless offices that have poor air circulation. Our buildings are old with antiquated ventilation... we can freeze or suffocate from the heat.
In these small offices, two nurses work elbow to elbow. All our equipment is also stored here as well. The medical equipment takes up most of the existing space and includes, for example, crash carts, medication carts, refrigerators, large desks, computers, centrifuges as well as sinks and garbage cans.
During the summer months, when covid was at its worst, we were forced to gown in these same cramped offices. To date, we have not received needed biohazard bins to dispose of used PPE. We improvised and used paper bags.
There still is no separation of clean and dirty areas in our nursing offices. In order to create an illusion of social distancing, administration offered to hang shower curtains in these offices. The nurses refused this plan outright.
There exist large adjoining offices that can accommodate the nurses. Staff who occupy these offices have graciously offered to move to other quarters, but administration continues to drag its feet, and our situation remains dire.
We are concerned that when the new wave hits, the administration will be unable to move us as the personnel needed for this project will be needed elsewhere. We look forward to the Covid vaccine but are aware that time will be needed to test the efficacy of the vaccine.
As of this moment, we are not receiving any communication from administration concerning this safety issue. Our emails read like the threads on Facebook. We receive multiple posts filled with political agendas, banners that tell us that we are heroes, and pictures of flowers and puppies. Our infection control nurse is assigned to collect data, so we are not receiving this much needed assistance. Requests from our union (PEF) for closure are going unanswered.
We know that our job is filled with risks, but we are heartbroken that our administration would rather sit in their comfortable and safe offices, while we suffer “in the trenches”. There is no rational reason to continue to force nurses to work in unsafe environments where our very lives are at risk.

Oneida Musa, RN, BSN

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