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'They Are Scared': Nurses Say Northridge Hospital Not Prepared For Surge In Coronavirus Patients

NORTHRIDGE (CBSLA) — Tents have been set up outside Dignity Northridge Medical Center to handle an expected wave of COVID-19 patients, but the nurses who work inside said Monday that the hospital was far from ready.

"They are scared," Kim Bingaman, a nurse, said. "They're panic-stricken."

She said thinking about what is yet to come hasn't been easy for her coworkers.

"I know that every ER nurse when we come to work in the morning, we don't know what to expect," Elissa Rill, an emergency room nurse said.

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The nurses said the main issue was that they do not have enough of the protective equipment they desperately need, such as N-95 masks.

Staffers said they have had to reuse the protective gear, cleaning them or putting a regular mask over an N-95 mask, neither of which are recommended by public health officials.

"It's only designed for one patient use," Rill said. "Well, unfortunately, we're beyond that point right now."

On Monday night, Dignity Health sent out a statement that read in part:

"To ensure the safety of patients and staff, we made the decision to move [personal protective equipment] to our hospital command center so that we can better control and manage appropriate use of the PPE."

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But the nurses at Dignity Northridge said that just means that the equipment is locked up, and they have no idea how much is in storage.

"And we're the ones that should be given the masks to put on to prevent us," Gayle Batiste, an operating room nurse, said. "Because if we get sick then we give it to our patients, we give it to our family, we give it to the community."

This lack of necessary equipment has forced these nurses, and nurses across the country, to beg for donations of masks and other protective equipment.

But beyond that, the nurses wanted people to think about what the tents outside would look like if people continued to ignore the stay-at-home orders by packing beaches and hiking trails.

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"You guys are going to have to realize, people are going to die," Bingaman said. "Probably someone you know will die, so you got to stay home."

Dignity Health also said it would continue to properly manage its resources to ensure everyone's safety as the fluid situation unfolds.

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