MANTECA (CBS13) — Emergency Department nurse John Cole was almost in tears describing what he says these past few months have been like.

“When we are driven the way we are and short staffed the way we are and not given supplies to keep ourselves safe it definitely, definitely is stressful,” he explained.

Cole says hospitals are being stretched thin and claims personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks are being rationed.

“These masks were designed to be disposable but they are so concerned about getting in trouble that they are basically reusing their PPE for weeks at a time,” Cole said.

He says just recently there were not any masks for him to use while picking up a shift at Kaiser in Manteca.

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“I had to basically get a mask from another employee that they had to protect myself,” he said.

CBS13 reached out to Kaiser who denied staff sharing masks and says all employees are provided their own. They say they do use new N95 masks and extend the use of them with safe decontamination procedures set by the CDC and FDA. Kaiser said with the continued nationwide shortage they are taking action to ensure their staff has the right level of PPE to safely deliver patient care.

Meantime, new numbers from San Joaquin county show 25 beds are being used at Kaiser in Manteca right now.

Vida Tan works at Kaiser in Modesto.

“For the first time in my 32 years of experience, now I have great concern that I’m not able to do the highest level of care because of the concerns that we have,” she said.

She worries about staffing, exposure and PPE supplies just as much as Cole.

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“On a personal note probably getting it and bringing it home,” Cole said.

A recent survey from National Nurses United shows 87% of participating nurses reported having to reuse masks while 72% reported having exposed skin or clothing.

Below is Kaiser’s complete statement in regard to PPE concerns among health care workers.

“As is well known by now, there is a continuing global shortage of protective masks and other equipment during this pandemic. As we have for months now, we continue to take every action possible to make sure our staff have the right level of protective equipment (PPE) they need to deliver care safely.

Kaiser Permanente’s top priority is the safety of our patients and staff. Our policies and procedures have met and continue to meet occupational safety & health regulations and the extensive guidance issued by local, state and federal public health agencies and experts.  We provide our staff and physicians with the correct protective equipment that is based on the latest science and public health guidance. These are the supplies and equipment that are also being used by hospital systems in California and across the nation.

Kaiser Permanente uses a combination of new N95 masks and extended use of these masks with safe decontamination procedures aligned with CDC protocols, authorized by the FDA, and in use at other major health care systems. Each staff person is provided his/her own masks – masks are not shared among staff.
Everything we are doing to prudently manage PPE supplies is so that we can ensure this equipment is available for our health care workforce for the duration of this pandemic. This includes asking our workforce to help conserve equipment in ways that are safe and government-authorized, as well as having our supply chain teams aggressively working to secure additional PPE and other critical supplies to safeguard our employees and physicians.

We are grateful to our entire nursing staff for their dedication to our patients. We understand this is a stressful time and we encourage staff to raise concerns. We understand and share those concerns over the challenges this pandemic and resulting worldwide equipment shortages are continuing to cause. We are in this fight together and we remain committed to protecting our valued care teams, including our nurses who are at the front line of care, as we continue to do all that we can to ensure the safety of our patients and staff.”

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