- Associated Press - Monday, October 20, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Nurses in Rhode Island don’t feel adequately prepared to deal with Ebola, according to a union’s survey released Monday.

The survey found that about 80 percent of health care professionals who responded feel their workplace is unprepared to treat a patient with Ebola or believe more should be done to get ready.

There have been no cases of Ebola in Rhode Island.

The union represents about 6,500 nurses and health care workers in Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut. Of the 359 people who responded in Rhode Island, nearly half said they had not been told about the appropriate procedures and protocols for treating a patient with Ebola. More than half said they don’t think they will have access to proper protective equipment.

Linda McDonald, president of United Nurses and Allied Professionals, said there’s widespread concern and confusion.



“We, as front-line caregivers, do not feel that we are prepared or ready,” she said.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee and Rhode Island Department of Health Director Dr. Michael Fine have said the opposite: that the state is leading the nation on preparedness for Ebola. The health department said Friday it continues to work with the local West African community, conduct exercises and share the latest information with the public.

Chafee said about 20 percent of nurses in Rhode Island could be needed to deal with an Ebola outbreak, and they have been trained. Some of the survey’s respondents could fall within the remaining 80 percent, he added.

Rhode Island Hospital says it’s providing “intensive training” to more than 500 front-line staff members who could possibly come into contact with an Ebola patient.

“The safety of our nurses is paramount,” the hospital said in a statement after the survey was released.

Chafee said the state could do a better job communicating with union leaders, and he plans to talk to them.

The union wants the state to purchase more protective equipment, conduct more drills and take additional precautions regarding protective garments and decontamination areas. McDonald said it’s possible for any health care worker to encounter a patient with Ebola.

Union presidents from Rhode Island Hospital, Fatima Hospital, Kent Hospital, Memorial Hospital and state-employed nurses stood behind McDonald as she discussed the survey at a news conference.

McDonald stopped short of calling state officials wrong in how they portray the state’s preparedness. She said the union is “opening a dialogue” and that it would be “irresponsible” not to speak out.

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