To the editor:
Allina executive Sara Criger’s December guest column was ostensibly a plea to the public to protect health care workers, but Criger creates the misimpression that Allina Health has taken “extreme precautions” to protect its own workforce.
Criger asserts, “The majority (of Allina workers) have been exposed out in the community, not in our hospitals where infection from sick patients is highly unlikely due to the extreme precautions we take.”
We challenge the phrase “extreme precautions.” For example, at United Hospital in St. Paul, patients are doubling up in rooms, though precautions have not always been taken to assure that both patients have confirmed negative COVID tests. At times, we have been told to reuse masks and gowns, sometimes for multiple days. We are required to continue to use our own scrubs. Break rooms are small, so when we remove our masks to eat while on break, we risk infecting each other. Allina nurses are not regularly tested to prevent asymptomatic spread of COVID. In fact, most nurses have never been tested by the employer. We are unaware of an active contact tracing plan at United.
In addition, nurses ill with COVID are certainly not the only reason for the staffing shortage. Nurses have made themselves available to work additional hours but have not been picked up because the “surge staffing model” does not allow for additional staff. Per management’s plan, the surge staffing model disregards the acuity of each patient and mandates a set ratio, often above what nurses consider safe.
Criger is rarely seen at United and when she is here, she resides in the “clean and quiet” administrative area, which has dimmed lighting, carpet, and a view of the James J. Hill house. She does not do direct patient care.
It seems to us that Allina executives are engaging in this gaslighting behavior in order to shield themselves from the moral and potential legal liability they may carry for the troublesome manner in which they have handled COVID at Allina Hospitals. They need to get their own house in order before urging the public to take action.
Brittany Livaccari, Emily Sippola, Jamie Turner
Nurses at United Hospital in St. Paul