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Nurses' Union to President Trump: Protective Equipment is Needed Now

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   April 02, 2020

National Nurses United urges the president to order an immediate increase in PPE production. 

Today, National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the country, sent a letter to President Donald J. Trump demanding he immediately and fully invoke the presidential authorities granted in the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of necessary personal protective equipment for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The union called on the president to order manufacturers to increase production of respirators, face shields, coveralls, gloves, gowns, testing equipment and supplies, ventilators, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines.

"Across the nation, our healthcare workforce does not have the personal protective equipment it needs to safely care for patients without risking exposure to the virus," NNU states in the letter. "As a result, healthcare workers are at risk of illness and death, which puts our entire health care system at risk of collapse. Further, when health care workers are exposed to the virus, they risk transmitting the virus to their families, patients, and communities. If our country fails to immediately protect our health care workers, we will fail to contain the COVID-19 pandemic."

NNU represents more than 155,000 registered nurses across the country, many of whom are on the frontlines of the pandemic caring for COVID-19 patients. According to the union, the executive orders and presidential memorandum the White House has issued regarding the use of the Defense Production Act do not yet fully exercise the presidential authority available under the statute.

"The president has taken the first steps to exercise the authorities given to him by the Defense Production Act," NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, says in a news release. "We applaud him for using the statute to order ventilator production by General Motors, and we urge him to take similar actions to order manufacturers to immediately increase production of respirators, including N95s, and other personal protective equipment."

The union calls on the president to immediately take the following actions to invoke the Defense Production Act:

  • Invoke Title III of the Defense Production Act immediately by directing increased production of equipment and supplies from existing manufacturers, directing other industrial manufacturing facilities to transition to production of the equipment and supplies needed in the COVID-19 response, and immediately generating manufacturing purchase orders to ensure expedient production of essential equipment and supplies
  • Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to gather information on supplies and implement restrictions on hoarding
  • Ensure the immediate and continued release and distribution of personal protective equipment, testing equipment, ventilators, and ECMO machines in the strategic national stockpile.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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