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Nurse Fired From United Hospital Continues Fight Over Hospital-Issued Scrubs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A nurse who claims he was fired for speaking up about a lack of protective gear says he'll continue to fight for his fellow nurses.

Cliff Willmeng says he wants to see nurses more involved in the decisions that affect them and their patients, and believes hospitals can do better to protect nurses.

He says he was fired from United Hospital for speaking out about a need for proper gear that prevents nurses from contracting and spreading the virus they are at war with.

"Disposable surgical booties so we are not tracking COVID-19 through the halls of the hospital. Those are things -- and of course hospital-issued scrubs -- those are things that are currently available in the hospital," he said.

Allina Health says Willmeng violated hospital policy and expectations regarding uniforms and hospital scrubs, as well as his duty to follow the direction of his leaders.

"I think what the hospital is engaged in basic and textbook retaliation. That's what I believe," he said.

Allina Health says it adheres to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health. Neither consider hospital-issued scrubs as Personal Protective Equipement (PPE).

Nurses say this fight is about more than hospital scrubs.

"The policies and procedures and the lack of frontline health care workers from the central decision-making body, which is the incident command, means the decisions are being made by people who are not taking care of patients," Willmeng said.

The Minnesota Nurses Association says it wants nurses involved in the decisions that impact their lives, and they want any retaliation against nurses for speaking out on issues of safety to stop.

"We have multiple other members who are in the process and not far behind the one who was fired. We'll probably have at this rate a couple of other people who get fired," nurse Brittany Livaccari said.

Livaccari says the union is planning an action it hopes will force the state and hospital management to get on the same page when it comes to safety. That planned action is a march from United Hospital in St. Paul to the State Capital on May 20.

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