Statement in Response to MNA Claims About Conditions at CHA

05/20/2020

Statement from Cambridge Health Alliance
- Response to Mass. Nurses Association’s claims of dangerous conditions at CHA - May 20, 2020

Cambridge Health Alliance values the tremendous work that our nurses and entire staff are doing during these extraordinary times. Their unwavering commitment to providing patients with quality, compassionate care is nothing short of inspiring. It is a priority for CHA to ensure that all of our employees have access to appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) that is safe, protects their health and limits risk of infection spread. We are extremely proud of the thoughtful and creative ways we achieved this while managing inpatient volume that surged more than any other hospital in Massachusetts.

  • Like all hospitals and health systems across our region, CHA is facing unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a severe disruption to the healthcare supply chain. CHA is monitoring supply levels and needs around the clock and addressing them aggressively.
  • PPE management has been a key focus for CHA, guided and supported by a multidisciplinary PPE committee, a mask advisory group, PPE champions who train and educate colleagues, and an online PPE guide that is continuously updated. We have employed a data-driven, science-based PPE plan and continue to revise and improve it as things change.
  • To maximize our limited supply of N95 masks, we launched an extended use/reuse program that employs innovative and approved disinfection processes. Masks are disinfected with UV-C based on published experience from the University of Nebraska and collaboration with colleagues from UMass and scientists who informed the N95DECON guidance for hospitals. This program is in full compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Mass. Department of Public Health guidance. Additionally, we commissioned an independent assessment from a member of the Boston Expert Advisory Panel for COVID-19 who confirmed our processes are sound. We are confident that this approach to disinfection has a scientific basis for effectiveness.
  • Starting March 9, we reconfigured our Occupational Health Department to fully support our workforce during the pandemic. We set up a dedicated hotline that is open to all staff. We have triaged essentially one-third of our employees (>1550 persons) for COVID-19-related concerns. Based on evidence-based criteria that adhere to CDC guidelines and other best practices, nearly 20 percent of our workforce (more than 870 people) have been tested for COVID-19, with 151 testing positive (clinical infection rate of approximately 3 percent). Any employee who has tested positive receives clinical follow-up from our Occupational Health clinicians every 48 hours until she/he is cleared to work. We also continually monitor our triage and testing processes and work to improve them to make sure our employees are safe and healthy. The hotline and testing system remain open to any and all CHA healthcare workers.
  • We have not made any claims as to how positive employees acquired COVID-19 occupationally. We and others know that COVID-19 can be transmitted at home, at the workplace or in the community, and we are doing our best to protect people with PPE, appropriate testing, and by keeping symptomatic and positive employees at home until they have recovered and are no longer infectious. We are actively analyzing infections rates to look for trends.
  • We have provided generous benefits and support to our workforce during this crisis, including:
    • Any employee receives pay while out with COVID-19 without having to use any benefits time. Per diem employees and non benefit eligible employees are also paid to ensure that they are financially secure during their recovery.
    • Full pay for most cases where employees were not at work, including those who were awaiting test results, tested positive or were asked to quarantine 10 days of paid time off for childcare needs
    • Free temporary housing at Harvard Square Hotel and a Tufts University dormitory for employees who live with high-risk individuals
    • Available childcare resources were identified and shared with employees
    • Substantial discounts negotiated with several local hotels for employees
    • New wellness resources and emotional support groups created
  • CHA experienced an unprecedented surge in patients requiring telemetry and oximetry monitoring during the pandemic. Due to a shortage and an incomplete order from a vendor, we employed portable monitors as a temporary solution. We no longer are using the monitors as we have adequate telemetry and oximetry equipment to accommodate the current COVID-19 patient volume.
  • This crisis has placed a tremendous financial strain on hospitals and health systems across the country. CHA is not exempt from these challenges, but we have been committed to keeping as many employees fully employed as possible during these difficult times, without layoffs or furloughs.
  • Our workforce is our greatest asset, and we have worked very hard to protect them and address any concerns as this crisis has evolved. We are committed to ongoing communication with our staff and encourage a regular dialogue, including continuous leadership rounding on our units, frequent virtual town halls from our CEO and clinical leaders, daily huddles that share key information to staff, a comprehensive internal website with daily updates and scientific data and resources available for staff to access at any time, and a direct email to our Hospital Incident Command team to escalate any issues.

Upon learning of the Mass. Nurses Association’s concerns, we promptly responded and extended an offer for our Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer to meet with the union. This morning, CEO Assaad Sayah, MD, will be joining CNO Lynette Alberti and CHRO Joy Curtis in a virtual CNO Town Hall meeting for all of our nurses to hear their feedback and answer their questions.

We appreciate the work that everyone across CHA is doing to overcome challenges created by this crisis, and we are doing everything possible to advocate for additional resources and supplies.