Home » Blog » Nurses Refuse to Work Unprotected

healthcare, Work

Nurses Refuse to Work Unprotected

Ten nurses have been suspended at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California for refusing to work without the protection of N95 respirator masks. Are they really in short supply?

by Stephen Shenfield



1 min read

The pandemic is over and that’s official. Everyone back to work, folks! Enough loafing around already!

According to a document leaked from the Centers for Disease Control, the daily number of new cases, currently 30,000, is projected to rise to 200,000 by the end of the month. 

Fake news, I guess. 

Meanwhile it is reported that ten nurses have been suspended at Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California for refusing to work without the protection of tight-fitting N95 respirator masks. A co-worker had tested positive for Covid-19 and several doctors had advised them not to care for severely affected patients without wearing a respirator. However, the hospital administration ordered them to do exactly that. They were warned that failure to comply would be reported to the state licensing board as patient abandonment and negligence.   

The nurses suspect that the respirators are not really in short supply, as the administration claims. ‘The hospital group is a multi-billion-dollar corporation,’ noted one nurse. ‘It can definitely afford to buy them.’ 

The nurses are scared not only of catching Covid-19 but also of contaminating their families. Over 9,000 healthcare workers have tested positive so far.

In public rhetoric nurses are celebrated as ‘frontline’ heroes and heroines in the fight against the pandemic. But inside the hospitals their fate depends on administrators who totally lack respect for such lowly creatures and ignore their complaints. Administrative personnel may even outnumber healthcare workers. It is their duty to ensure that paperwork is completed correctly. The main concern of high-level administrators is to earn their annual bonus. According to Healthcare Finance News, the bonus of a hospital CEO is on average about a third of base salary and is determined by revenue size and other ‘standard performance metrics.’ 

That is why the administrators do not want to buy ‘too much’ protective equipment. That is why they are always on the lookout for ways to cut personnel and other costs. 

‘There is no shortage of nurses,’ explains one inside observer. ‘There is a shortage of properly paid nursing positions.’ So nurses are forced to put in long hours of overtime. After a time they can no longer take the pressure and ‘burn out’ (here). Many quit. An increasing number commit suicide. 

Such are a few of the delights of healthcare for profit. 

Tags: nurses, pandemic, protective equipment, respirators

Photo of author
I grew up in Muswell Hill, north London, and joined the Socialist Party of Great Britain at age 16. After studying mathematics and statistics, I worked as a government statistician in the 1970s before entering Soviet Studies at the University of Birmingham. I was active in the nuclear disarmament movement. In 1989 I moved with my family to Providence, Rhode Island, USA to take up a position on the faculty of Brown University, where I taught International Relations. After leaving Brown in 2000, I worked mainly as a translator from Russian. I rejoined the World Socialist Movement about 2005 and am currently general secretary of the World Socialist Party of the United States. I have written two books: The Nuclear Predicament: Explorations in Soviet Ideology (Routledge, 1987) and Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (M.E. Sharpe, 2001) and more articles, papers, and book chapters that I care to recall.

Related Articles

Capitalism, Class, Economics, Work

A Novel That Makes Socialists

Views: 1,043 Robert Tressell’s The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists is a book that has made (or helped make) many socialists, at least in Britain. It has long been popular in our ...

1 min read

Environment, healthcare, Science, Technology

Beware — Cell Phones!

Cell phones are everywhere. Almost everyone has one. But there is mounting scientific evidence of the harm their radiation does to human health, especially to the health of children.

4 min read

Capitalism, Economics, Environment, Work

The Strange Existence of Las Vegas

What sense does it make for a big city to exist in the middle of a scorching desert? What contribution does Las Vegas make to human wellbeing?

4 min read

Socialism, Work

A Society of Universal Unemployment

Views: 957 In 1848 the Prussian government sent a young physician named Rudolf Carl Virchow to Upper Silesia (now in Poland) to investigate a typhus epidemic. His ...

2 min read
Notify of
This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share to...