Prisma Health seeks to reassure workers of their safety during coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus: Flattening the curve

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Prisma Health issued a statement hoping to reassure its team members and the public after some nurses reached out to WIS concerned about a new policy involving personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a statement released Thursday, Prisma officials said it updated its PPE policy to match guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We have taken numerous steps to protect our team members and our patients during the COVID-19 public health crisis,” Mark O’Halla, president and CEO of Prisma Health, said. “We understand that people are anxious. We will never put our team members in a harmful situation.”

A nurse, who wanted to remain anonymous, told WIS when they first started treating coronavirus patients, Prisma told them to wear their gown, gloves, N95 mask and face shield.

“They’re now saying the only time we are supposed to wear an N95 mask is if the patient is being intubated or getting a respiratory treatment because that puts the virus out into the air," the nurse told WIS.

She said the policy change made her feel vulnerable.

”The updated PPE policy, which complies with CDC and WHO guidelines, means we match the PPE used with the condition of the patient, which is a basic measure to creating a safe environment and ensuring the right equipment is used in the right setting,” Dr. Eric Ossmann, Chief of Preparedness for Prisma Health, said in the company’s response Thursday. “This is even more important when there is a global shortage of PPE, particularly N95 masks. No one should be using PPE inappropriately.”

He added: “The recent policy update was a change in practice for our Midlands locations. The Upstate locations were already operating under this policy.”

Prisma said it is requiring all team members to wear surgical masks whenever they interact with patients -- not just doctors and nurses, but anyone in its hospitals who comes in contact with any patient.

“We have taken many steps to ensure our team members and patients are safe,” O’Halla said. “We have restricted visitors and limited entrances to our facilities. We also started temperature checks on everyone entering the hospitals, including team members.”

The health care company also said it’s working to care for employees’ mental health as they deal with increasing pressure related to the public health emergency. Prisma said it enhanced its Employee Assistance Program to help.

“We know team members are worried about carrying the virus home to their families, which is why we have provided information on discounted hotel rooms for our frontline team members who do not want to go home between shifts,” O’Halla said. “We are grateful for our community partners who are making this available.”

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Prisma said support from the community is also vital at this time. The company has started a Blue Ribbon campaign to show support for health care workers. Prisma will tie blue ribbons around trees on its campuses, and officials encourage the public to do the same.

“We are also sharing with our teams the inspiring messages that we receive from the public, and we are posting our own positive messages about our team in internal communications and on Prisma Health social media channels,” O’Halla said. “We are very appreciative of the community’s efforts to encourage our dedicated health care workers as well.”

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