10 California Nurses Suspended After Refusing to Treat Coronavirus Patients Without N95 Face Masks

Ten nurses at a Santa Monica, California hospital have been suspended after refusing to care for COVID-19 patients, having not been provided protective N95 face masks to wear on the job, reported The Associated Press Thursday. News of their suspension comes just two days after other nurses at a hospital in Fresno, California protested inadequate personal protective equipment after 10 of their fellow nurses had tested positive for coronavirus.

Mike Gulik, who was one of the nurses suspended from the Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, told the outlet that while the decision was heartbreaking, he felt he needed to take a stand after a colleague tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Gulik claimed the hospital said masks weren't necessary and was not providing them to nurses. Last week, a nurse in Gulick's ward tested positive for COVID-19, and the nurse said the following day doctors at the hospital told his colleagues they needed better protective equipment.

Gulick then told hospital management that he and nine other nurses would not treat COVID-19 patients without an N95 masks, at which the nurses' union told the AP all 10 nurses were suspended with pay. In response, the hospital did not comment on the suspension, but said in a statement Tuesday it was providing N95 masks to all nurses caring for COVID-19 patients. The hospital added in its statement, "It's no secret there is a national shortage."


The national shortage of N95 masks has hit healthcare workers particularly hard, with California counting more than 2,500 frontline healthcare workers who have contracted the virus. Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he had made deals with a consortium of nonprofits and acquired technology capable of providing 200 million medical masks a month not only for California, but possibly others, for a total of $990 million.

"We've been competing against other states, against other nations, against our own federal government for PPE — coveralls, masks, shields, N95 masks — and we're not waiting around any longer," Newsom told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. "We decided enough is enough: let's use the power of the purchasing power of the state of California as a nation-state."