The largest professional association of registered nurses in the United States is "deeply concerned" by the spread of Ebola, and is calling on President Obama to invoke his authority to protect health care workers.
"Without action at a very high level, how can we expect the nurses to do this on their own?" National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro told reporters on Wednesday, hours after a second nurse who treated the first Ebola patient in the U.S. tested positive for the virus.
DeMoro said many of National Nurses United's 185,000 members have expressed a lack of training and preparedness for potential Ebola patients in their hospitals, and said the group has tried to bring the lack of readiness to the attention of the highest levels of government.
"We've been essentially ignored by the White House and the CDC," she said.
The group sent a letter to Obama and Congress on Wednesday urging the president to mandate uniform standards and protocols in hospitals.
"We're asking the president of the United States to invoke his executive authority to protect the nurses and the health care workers," DeMoro said. That includes mandating optimal personal protective equipment and interactive training on infectious diseases for nurses.
"We know that without these mandates to health care facilities we are putting registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers at extreme risk. They are our first line of defense. We would not send soldiers to the battlefield without armor and weapons," the letter said.
The two nurses infected with Ebola work at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, and both treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola at that hospital.
On Tuesday, National Nurses United said several Dallas nurses told them no protocols were in place to protect workers from the illness. The group did not identify the nurses.