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Health workers on the front lines of coronavirus outbreak concerned about supplies, staffing

Union leaders urged healthcare employers to make sure protocols are in place for dealing with coronavirus patients.

PORTLAND, Ore — An Oregon health care worker under quarantine after potential contact with a patient who tested positive for coronavirus is concerned about hospital safety measures.

The employee, who asked to remain anonymous, is one of dozens of employees at Kaiser Permanente’s Westside Medical Center told to stay home in self-isolation for 14 days. The first Oregon patient to test positive for the virus was treated at the Hillsboro hospital.

The Kaiser worker said the hospital allowed the patient to stay in a room with no isolation procedures for several days, potentially exposing staff. Additionally, the worker felt Kaiser should have notified workers about possible exposure to the virus much earlier.

In a statement, Kaiser explained it followed regional public health and CDC guidelines to contain and prevent the spread of infectious disease.

RELATED: Dozens of Hillsboro hospital employees told to stay home after potential coronavirus contact

Similar concerns have been raised by doctors and nurses around the country as hospitals and other healthcare facilities appear to have become hot spots for the spread of infections.

Health care providers in Northern California and Washington contracted coronavirus from patients. Workers on the front lines of an epidemic often make up a disproportionate number of cases because of their close and repeated contact with sick patients.

RELATED: Timeline: Coronavirus in Oregon, Washington

Union leaders from SEIU Local 49 urged healthcare employers to make sure reporting and isolation protocols are in place for dealing with coronavirus patients. Additionally, the union said hospitals and clinics should have adequate protective equipment including gowns, gloves, respirator masks and eye protection.

“We are very concerned about supplies,” said Meg Niemi, president, SEIU local 49.

Union leaders warn health care staffing levels are another concern.

“If healthcare workers throughout the region continue to be placed on some kind of furlough if people do get sick, then what are the plans to deal with staffing?” asked Niemi.

The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals said it is in communication with members to ensure they have the equipment and the resources they need during an increasingly challenging situation.

Our entire career- we’ve been walking into rooms where we didn’t know what we were walking into. That’s the nature of our work,” explained Adrienne Enghouse, president, OFNHP.

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