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Health

Maine Medical Center Nurses' Union Says It's Not The Time To Roll Back COVID-19 Protections For Staff

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Carol Bousquet
/
Maine Public
On Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, nurses spoke out about protective protocols put in place by Maine Medical Center a year prior that the employer is now rolling back.

Maine Medical Center nurses say the surge of COVID cases has left them exhausted, burned out and, concerned about their wellbeing and that of their patients. On Wednesday, the nurses spoke out about protective protocols put in place by Maine Medical Center a year ago that the employer is now rolling back. Nurses say re-using protective face gear such as N95 masks is a regular occurrence. And caregivers who are pregnant and used to be guaranteed paid quarantine leave at 37 weeks of pregnancy are losing that benefit.

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Carol Bousquet

"That meant that I knew when I went into the hospital. It made the circumstances around the pandemic easier knowing that risk was mitigated, says nurse Emily Wilder, who gave birth six months ago.

Maine Medical Center says CDC guidelines indicate staff who must wear N95 masks can do so with limited re-use in one day. MMC says no staff member has been directed to wear the same N95 more than one day. As for pregnant care team members, the hospital follows clinical guidance and says after Oct. 1, its original policy on maternity leave will be appropriate. That means employees may continue to work after the 37th week as their individual conditions allow.

The nurses union says the hospital is also phasing out quarantine pay for employees exposed to COVID.

Maine Medical Center responded with a statement saying that their new policy is consistent with recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It says care team members required to quarantine will now use paid time off. But Maine Medical will provide quarantine pay for those testing positive for COVID.

Nurses at Maine Medical Center voted to join the Maine State Nurses Association and National Nurses United in May and are now in contract talks.