The nation's largest union of registered nurses Wednesday called on President Obama to mandate uniform standards at U.S. hospitals to protect healthcare workers from the Ebola virus.
"Not one more patient, nurse or healthcare worker should be put at risk due to a lack of healthcare facility preparedness," National Nurses United wrote in a letter to the president. "The United States should be setting the example on how to contain and eradicate the Ebola virus."
In the wake of news that two nurses were infected after treating a Liberian patient who died last week at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the union is demanding protective equipment including hazmat suits and respirators for all workers treating Ebola patients.
The group also wants a minimum of two nurses assigned to each patient and ongoing training for protection from Ebola.
"We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons," RoseAnn DeMoro, the union's executive director, said in a conference call Wednesday with more than 11,000 nurses from across the country.
"What happened in Dallas could happen anywhere," she said.
Nurses on the call described inadequate preparations at their hospitals. Protective gear consisted of generic gowns, cheap gloves and ill-fitting face masks, some said.
In some cases, training was limited to a flier or a 10-minute lecture.
A nurse in Florida said a co-worker was suspended when her bosses discovered she had called the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ask how workers could protect themselves from Ebola.
In an informal survey of more than 2,300 nurses at 780 facilities across the country, the union found that training was lacking.
About 40% of the nurses said their hospitals had insufficient supplies of eye protection. A similar percentage reported a shortage of fluid-resistant gowns.