Vice: NOLA Nurses Are Losing Their Jobs After Weathering a Peak of COVID-19


Well-known member
Dec 11, 2018
In New Orleans and across the nation, hospital management companies are cutting health care workers’ hours. It's a cost-saving mechanism in response to overall lowered intake volumes. This is a positive sign that attempts to "flatten the curve" are working, as well as an ominous indication that sick people are avoiding care because they’re afraid of being exposed to COVID-19 (a fear that’s now unfounded, as hospitals have successfully isolated COVID patients). But the extremely high flux of patients means hospitals have started to destabilize the work schedule of health care workers, a pattern that is likely to continue as political leaders attempt to manage the rates of infection.

On March 24, the same day Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced that COVID-19 patients would likely overwhelm local hospitals by the first week of April, operating room nurse Hannah (whose name has been changed here to protect her anonymity for fear of professional repercussions) was summoned to the surgery desk. There, leadership told her she faced a choice: She could be redeployed to her hospital’s COVID unit for the next three to six months, or she could refuse and be charged with patient abandonment.

“We were told that refusal would lead to immediate termination without eligibility for rehire and that we’d be immediately reported to the state board,” Hannah said.

Hannah opted to work in the COVID intensive care unit. There, she faced “complete fuckery”: disorganization, inadequate PPE, a four-to-one patient-to-nurse ratio (normal ICU ratios are two-to-one or one-to-one), and the sickest patients she’d encountered in her career.

“There’s a certain aspect of death that comes with our profession, but it was on such a scale… I will not be the same from before and after this,” Hannah said.

Her redeployment ended as abruptly as it started. On April 20, Hannah’s director said she was being sent back to surgery, with one caveat: She and her fellow nurses had to take 48 hours of vacation time over the next month and a half so the administration could avoid layoffs.

“I don’t have that much time off,” Hannah said. “They said, ‘We’ll let you go into negative.’ So then I have to pay that back? What happens if I find another job? I have to pay you for time off? It’s just shitty.”

Hannah’s situation isn’t unique. Across New Orleans, hospital revenue is down, and administrations are cutting workers’ hours. “At every hospital in the city, emergency department (ED) volumes are down to 20 to 40 percent of their normal,” said Justin (whose name has been changed because he fears professional repercussions), an ED physician who’s looking into getting a second job because his hours have been cut. “People aren’t coming in for the things they should come in for. For everyone who works in the ED, it’s been frustrating to not only lose hours, but also have the job be really dangerous at the same time.”


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