South Carolina puts retired nurse on alert
by Carol Thompson
Susan Zavell hasn’t practiced bedside nursing in over a decade but today she received a letter from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) alerting her that she must monitor and respond to notifications and requests from the agency.
“I don’t know what it means,” Zavell said Thursday afternoon, shortly after receiving the notice. She added that she has a call into DEHC but has yet to hear back.
“I think it’s irresponsible to send out a notice like this without clarification,” she said. “Are they going to force people to go back to work?”
The letter states, “On or before Monday, October 20, 2014, the following categories of individuals and entities must register with the Health Preparedness Network (Network) by sending an email to the address listed below that applies to you, unless you received this Order directly via email from DHEC, in which case you are already registered. This Network allows you to receive one-way communications of public health importance, including but not limited to information, guidance and instruction, from DHEC regarding the Ebola virus.” The letter lists health care providers, veterinarians, coroners, and others who would be involved in Ebola response.
It concludes that violation of a Public Health Order could result in a civil penalty. Zavell said she wasn’t sure what type of violation would constitute a penalty but did say that her lengthy absence from nursing would require her to take a refresher course in bedside care. “I haven’t done a physical exam in years.” A registered nurse, she has maintained her license despite being away from the field for 12 years.
Her husband, an emergency room doctor, received the same letter.
Zavell said nurses who treat Ebola patients are “basically self-sacrificing without proper personal protective equipment” and unless hospitals are well-prepared to protect health care providers, nurses will be walking out and could result in a shortage. She said she would surrender her license before putting her family and the community at risk.
Zavell questioned whether the local hospital in her area are prepared to handle Ebola patients. New York State’s Governor Mario Cuomo said today only eight of that state’s hospitals are prepared to handle the disease. It is unknown at this time how many hospitals are prepared in South Carolina.
The DHEC had scheduled a conference call for this afternoon for those receiving the letter, however, the phone lines were overwhelmed and they had to cancel. Zavell said she was told it would be rescheduled. She is also waiting for a response from the state’s emergency preparedness director.
Zavell said she has no idea if she would be called to work during an emergency. “I have no idea if that’s the plan, but it’s annoying that you have to ‘report’ or face civil penalties. I don’t like that.”