AFT President Randi Weingarten and nurse activists and leaders from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 16, to highlight the need to involve nurses and health professionals in developing and implementing plans to respond to Ebola.
AFT Nurses and Health Professionals are calling on hospitals around the nation do more to protect and train their staffs, after two nurses caring for the Ebola patient in Texas contracted the deadly virus.
"Healthcare workers are at the frontlines of this outbreak, and our No. 1 priority is to keep our community safe and healthy," said Weingarten. "That's why our nurses and health professionals came together to issue a clear three-point plan to respond to and contain the Ebola virus, so that what happened in Texas doesn't happen anywhere else."
The plan calls for healthcare facilities to have infection-control protocols and a worker-preparedness plans; dedicated teams made up of specially trained volunteers that include doctors, nurses, lab and x-ray techs, and housekeeping staff; and involvement of frontline providers in preparedness planning.
Weingarten also said the current Ebola outbreak shows the need for greater investment in the U.S. public health infrastructure, which has eroded significantly in recent years. "This should be a wake up call to make funding the healthcare system a priority," she said. The AFT sent a letter to the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee calling for increased funding for public health emergencies.
"With the right protocols, preparedness, coordination and equipment, as well as a voice in the process, we can keep our communities safe and healthy," said Weingarten. "We must also stop playing politics with funding. We must invest in public health so that healthcare workers and communities have the infrastructure—that is, the education, coordination, supports, communication, tools, equipment and protocols—they need."
In addition, Candice Owley, chair of the AFT's healthcare division and an AFT vice president, noted that money and other assistance should be sent to West Africa as well. "If we are going to solve the crisis at home, we must also put our attention on Africa," she said. "We need to ensure that adequate funding is sent to Africa to help with the outbreak."
The AFT executive council passed a resolution on Oct. 15 that addresses the union's global response to the Ebola crisis. The AFT website also includes material on dealing with Ebola, such as a fact sheet, information on Ebola preparedness in hospitals and schools, and other resources.
[Adrienne Coles, AFT press release]