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Nurses union says Joliet hospital staff working at unsafe patient ratios

The Carolyn J. Czerkies Emergency Department at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center Joliet can be seen on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020, in Joliet, Ill.
The Carolyn J. Czerkies Emergency Department at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center Joliet can be seen on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020, in Joliet, Ill.

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The head of the Illinois Nurses Association, which represents nurses in Joliet, joined the state's daily briefing on COVID-19 developments Monday to comment on the impact on nurses.

The INA issued a statement late last week saying that nurses at AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet are working at higher than safe patient ratios as some are checked out for COVID-19 and others have been furloughed.

"As a result of their sacrifice, nurses in Illinois are starting to get sick and infected," INA Executive Director Alice Johnson said Monday. "Sadly, we have seen some employers argue with nurses about where they became infected, completely ignoring the obvious risk created by the work that they do every day."

The INA is a union that represents nurses at the Joliet hospital and elsewhere.

Nurses have been working at four-to-one and five-to-one ratios with COVID-19 patients at AMITA Saint Joseph Medical Center Joliet, union representatives said.

The Joliet hospital "had recommended care for patients in COVID care units, who require around the clock care and monitoring, be at a one-to-one ratio of nurses to patients," INA said in a news release issued Friday.

Registered Nurse Pat Meade was quoted in the release saying there are not enough nurses in the emergency room, intensive care unit and COVID-19 unit.

"Runners are needed to assist the nurse because we can't leave the critical patients," Meade said.

AMITA in a written statement did not address specific issues raised about the Joliet hospital but said, "We are closely following all requirements and guidelines for care set forward by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health, including appropriate staffing in all care areas."

According to the INA, 16 nurses are being investigated for COVID 19, and 16 others are among 45 staff members that have been furloughed at the Joliet hospital.

The INA also said that as of Friday 62 patients at the hospital had either tested positive for COVID-19 or were under investigation for the virus.

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