Union representing nurses at Wexner Medical Center files safety complaint

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The union representing nurses at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center filed a workplace safety complaint Tuesday with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In a letter of complaint to OSHA, the nurses union details more than a dozen instances where it believes nurses were unnecessarily put at risk and claims that as many as 85 nurses were infected with COVID-19 as a result.

Rick Lucas, president of the Ohio State University Nurses Organization, says this is the first time the union has filed a complaint against the hospital with OSHA.

“We really feel at this point that we need help,” Lucas said. “We need somebody else to step in and tell the hospital, ‘You need to do what’s right and protect employees.'”

Among the allegations in the complaint:

  – The medical center failed to provide each frontline healthcare worker with a sufficient supply of N95 masks

  – Workers caring for inmates with Covid-19 were not provided sufficient eye protection, ten employees contracted Covid-19

  – Dozens of nurses were quarantined as a result of an outbreak of Covid-19 in Dodd Rehabilitation Hospital

  – The Labor and Delivery unit had at least 27 staff members exposed to Covid-19 and were forced to quarantine

Some nurses are pushing back against the union’s complaint.

Michelle Carter works in Ross Heart Hospital and says there has been adequate supplies of personal protective equipment. 

Carter says the union did not survey nurses about working conditions before filing the complaint and that it’s a false representation of conditions. Carter added management at the medical center made an effort to regularly check on staff safety and try to allay fears.

“We have had adequate supply of PPE,” Cater said. “Our N-95 masks, we wear them five times in a shift and then we put them in a basket and get another N-95 mask.”

But the union says some members are unnecessarily being put in harm’s way and that the complaint is intended to help protect workers, their families and the community at large.

“If frontline health care workers aren’t protected, we can’t come in and take care of patients when we’re sick and we need the bed next to them,” Lucas said. “We don’t want this to spread into our community because we’re not protected.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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