MUSKEGON, Mich. — A complaint has been filed after registered nurses at Hackley Hospital say that they were prevented from wearing donated masks and not provided with masks by the hospital. 

Those masks are among a list of hospital supplies Mercy Health is asking community members to donate to its Muskegon and Grand Rapids hospitals. The health system also says it has personal protective equipment (PPE) available to staff members when they need it. 

Justin Howe, an intensive care unit RN and the president of the Mercy Health Partners RN Staff Council (the local affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association) said staff has been told not to use donated supplies. 

Howe claims that over the weekend nurses who were wearing N95 masks brought from home were told by hospital administrators to throw the masks away.

"We don't have enough of the proper protective equipment to ensure the safety of all of the staff," Howe said Tuesday afternoon.

The Michigan Nurses Association filed a complaint with MI Occupational Safety & Health Administration (MIOSHA)  on Tuesday based on the hospital violating the general duty clause of protecting workers from harm. 

The Michigan Nurses Association also filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Hackley appeared to enact a retaliatory policy increasing restrictions on nurses seeking to wear donated masks.

“It’s sad that we can count on the community to protect us, but we can’t count on our own hospital,” Howe said.

Justin Grill, Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Health Muskegon, said during a Tuesday evening interview that nurses 'absolutely' do have access to PPE when they need it. 

Grill said they are encouraging staff to use PAPRS, a respiratory protection system. The health system has over 20 PAPRS available in Muskegon, per Grill. If those are not available, he said they ask that staff members wear hospital issued N95 masks, face shields, gowns and gloves. 

"If a nurse or any other staff member brings in anything from home, we have really no way of verifying that it's doing the job it's supposed to do," Grill said. 

Grill said they are asking staff members who bring in N95 masks to allow the hospital to fit test the equipment to determine that it's adequate. 

Additionally, Grill said they are also asking staff to wear their N95 masks only in situations where it is appropriate to use PPE, to preserve the valuable resource. 

Grill said the health system's primary concern continues to be the safety of both patients and staff.

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