The nurses want training, hazmat suits, isolation rooms and better procedures for disposing of infectious fluids from patients in the final stages of the illness.
“We have bargaining demands,” DeMoro said on the call. “Those will escalate to possible pickets with the public.”
Nurses who dialed in to the conference call Wednesday afternoon described scarce safety procedures at their hospitals.
“It’s just an accident waiting to happen,” said Donna Flemming Covey, a nurse at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. She accused her employers of not providing her or her colleagues with goggles because they were “too expensive.”
“The major problem is we do not have a national, integrated health care system,” Covey told the conference call, describing it as a patchwork of private hospitals’ policies. “What is needed is a uniform national standard” for equipment and training.
On the basis of what CDC officials saw when they arrived at Dallas’ Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Frieden said health care workers might have put themselves at greater risk for contracting Ebola by overzealously donning multiple layers of protective equipment.
“By putting on more layers of personal protective equipment — it makes it harder to put on and take off — the chance of contamination becomes higher,” he said, stressing that the health care workers who might not have taken proper precautions were not reckless.
“There’s fear and the anxiety, and it’s understandable. These are good, dedicated people who were trying to protect themselves and their families,” Freiden said.
Authorities decontaminated the worker’s apartment complex and went door to door before dawn to inform neighbors about the situation.
Frieden said the CDC would take steps to prevent the use of public transportation by people who have been near those with Ebola.
Meanwhile, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told reporters Wednesday morning that doctors have upgraded the condition of the first infected Dallas health care worker, Nina Pham, from stable to good.
“Like Nina Pham, this is a heroic person, a person who dedicated her life and is dedicating her life to helping others,” Jenkins said of Vinson.
The situation “may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who said that the city made “reverse 911” phone calls to Vinson’s neighbors to inform them of the appearance of Ebola in their area.
“Dallas is anxious about this, and with this news this morning, the anxiety level goes up a level,” he said. “But we are not fearful.”
Ebola spreads by contact with bodily fluids of infected patients, with blood, diarrhea and vomit the most infectious fluids.
Health care workers said through the NNU that they treated Duncan for days without the correct protective gear as hazardous waste piled up and supervisors changed safety protocols. The union said the nurses want to remain anonymous in order to avoid retaliation from their employer.
Daniel Varga, the chief clinical officer with Texas Health Resources, the owner of Texas Health Presbyterian, said the quick isolation of the second worker shows their response to the disease is working. He said that there was no “systemic” problem that led to the transmissions and that workers had appropriate protective clothing.
“No one wants to get this right more than our hospital,” he said, adding that he would not comment on the allegations the union has made but that health care workers have proper protective gear and procedures.
Ebola has killed 4,500 people, almost all of them in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In this outbreak, the disease has proved fatal for about 70 percent of patients.
With reporting from Wilson Dizard