RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Mo. (KMOV.com) - SSM Health announced on Monday that nurses at its hospitals in the St. Louis area who are caring for non-COVID-19 patients or working in the emergency department will be allowed to wear cloth masks.
That's a change to the policy that prompted a nurse with 32-year experience to resign from St. Mary's Hospital last week when she said she wasn't allowed a wear a mask of any kind. The nurse asked to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation.
"At this point I think the nurses want something," said the nurse.
She said she was forbidden from wearing an N95 mask even though she bought it with her own money so she wouldn't reduce the hospitals limited supplies of personal protection equipment (PPE).
"I really found it shocking that for me to protect myself during a pandemic that they would let a nurse walk out the door," the nurse said.
Following our story about the nurse resigning, News 4 heard of nurses leaving their jobs for not being allowed to wear masks in Massachusetts, Florida and Ohio. Stacy Foytik worked in the labor and delivery department at Southwest General Hospital in Cleveland before she resigned on March 20.
"I didn't sign up to put my health at risk, my family's health at risk or causing other patients to get sick," said Foytik.
Nurses across the country are expressing concern about not being able to wear some sort of protection because patients in the hospital for another reason can carry and spread the cornavirus without showing symptoms.
Foytik said she had to take a stand for the safety of her seven children and her husband who has an autoimmune disease.
"So I had to decide I wasn't going to risk my kids and my husband getting sick because I was put in that situation," said Foytik.
SSM Health released a statement:
"This is an extraordinarily uncommon situation and requires flexibility. At this time, we are allowing employees in non-critical areas who will not be caring for COVID patients to wear cloth masks. The move to a new mask policy for all SSM Health hospitals in St. Louis had been under consideration for some time, and may change yet again as community conditions evolve. Our priority will always be to protect our patients and employees, while we also responsibly maintain our limited stock of supplies."
SSM Health said nurses can make their own cloth masks or wear ones donated by the community.