A nurse who raised concerns about the lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) at the hospital where she worked has died of coronavirus after caring for an infected patient.
Celia Yap Banago had worked at Research Medical Center (RMC) in Kansas City, Missouri, for 40 years and was due to retire this week, the National Nurses Union (NNU) said in a news release. She died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, last Tuesday.
According to the union, she was among the registered nurses who expressed their concerns about the lack of preparedness for the pandemic at RMC.
They said they were worried the hospital had insufficient supplies of PPE for nurses and other health care workers and said there had been delays in notifying nurses about their exposure to suspected COVID-19 patients. Nurses also claimed they were expected to continue coming in to work even after being exposed.
“Celia was an amazing nurse that dedicated her service for countless years at Research and a dear friend to all of us,” said Charlene Carter, a registered nurse at RMC. “I feel that I can speak for many nurses when I say that the loss of one of our dear fallen soldiers on the front line of this pandemic is more than devastating, it is a wake-up call.”
Carter told KCUR that she and Banago treated a patient last month who was later confirmed to have COVID-19 without N95 masks or any of the other PPE typically used in such cases.
She added: “Nurses have an instinctive conduct of being so selfless that I believe others don’t realize. No nurse should have to sacrifice their life in exchange for conserved profits by the rationing of proper protective equipment.
“Nurses all over the country need proper protection every day so that we can continue to save patients’ lives while sparing our own.”
The NNU, the largest union of registered nurses in the county, held a protest outside the White House on Tuesday—the day Banago died—to “call attention to the tens of thousands of health care workers who have become infected with COVID-19” due to the lack of PPE.
The union also organzied a candlelit vigil to honour Banago at the hospital on Thursday.
“We honor the life and career of Celia who gave so much of herself for her patients,” the union’s executive director Bonnie Castillo said. “No nurse, no health care worker, should have to put their lives, their health, and their safety at risk for the failure of hospitals and our elected leaders to provide the protection they need to safely care for patients.”
Nurses from RMC joined others who work for facilities also operated by HCA Midwest Health to protest the lack of protective gear earlier this month, the union said. HCA Midwest Health has been contacted for comment.