Minnesota Nurses Association worried hospitals aren’t prepared for a surge in COVID-19 patients

While the state moves to reopen, Minnesota nurses are sounding the alarm about a continued shortage of protective equipment for health care workers.

Officials with the Minnesota Nurses Association say workers have been re-using and sharing personal protective equipment (PPE) since the start of the pandemic and – despite assurances from leaders that we have enough supplies to reopen, nurses are concerned what might happen if cases surge.

"Whether my voice, I mean, I’m doing interviews constantly but I don’t know if my voice is being heard," explained Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner.

Mary Turner feels like she’s been screaming into the wind.

"One lone soldier, I can’t win the war myself," she said.

Along with leading the nurses association, Turner also cares for COVID patients herself at North Memorial Medical Center. She says PPE rationing and re-use is alarming.

"Right now, as of last week, we started to re-use our isolation gowns," Turner said.

She says they all feel a disconnect when Governor Walz says we’ve stockpiled enough to "turn the dial."

"Do you need the nurses marching in the streets, like on May 20th, we’re going to march up to the capitol," Turner wondered. "Do we need to get out on the streets en masse and to make a big enough ruckus so people pay attention to us. Because we’ll do it."

At North Memorial, a group of worried staff members shared photos with FOX 9 showing the powered air purifying masks they’re given instead of N95S -- the respirator masks that are in high demand since the start of the pandemic. They're concerned they’re not airtight and they have to share them.

They say the masks are wearing out and they wonder why there is still such a shortage.

In a statement, North Memorial wrote: "PPE extended use and re-use practices are newer to our staff and are a change from pre-pandemic practices. We are following the CDC guidelines for PPE conservation and transmission-based precautions, which are evidence based.”

As for supply questions, the State of Minnesota’s Critical Supply Group said they have a two-plus month supply of masks, gloves, face shields and N95 masks and average 30 to 40 shipments per day to hospitals and other providers.

But it’s still a balance between now and the need to build the state stockpile for the coming peak. For Mary, it's not good enough.

"If we’re rationing and we’re re-using our masks --  and we have been from day one -- and now we’re coming down to where we’re reusing our isolation gowns?" she said. "Everything is not fine. It is not fine at all."