National Public Radio reports a traveling doctor working at the Saint Alphonsus Regional Rehabilitation Hospital was told not to wear an N95 mask at work.
The reporting said the doctor, Neilly Buckalew, provided her own N95 mask and wore it work at the rehab hospital adjacent to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center on Curtis Rd.
The hospital is a joint venture between St Als’ parent company Trinity Health and Encompass Health.
Doctor says she was told not to wear personal mask
As a traveling doctor, she stayed at a local hotel. She said she became concerned after a guest in the room next door developed a cough.
“I wanted to protect myself,” Buckalew told NPR. “I wanted to protect my patients.”
[Saint Alphonsus cuts pay, furloughs employees after large revenue declines]
Buckalew told NPR that hospital administrators first told her she couldn’t wear a mask she purchased. She said leaders told her if she wore a mask, others would want to. Then she told NPR hospital administrators said CDC guidelines did not call for the masks.
The doctor said she refused to take off the mask, and hospital administrators fired her. She said she complained, got hired back — and then fired again.
A Saint Alphonsus spokesperson would not comment to BoiseDev, except to emphasize that the facility is a joint venture with Encompass. The spokesperson noted the employees do not work for Saint Alphonsus. Encompass operates the hospital under policies and procedures separate from other facilities in the Saint Alphonsus Health System network.
A spokesperson for Encompass did not immediately return our request for comment.
The rehab hospital provides services to patients recovering from a wide range of medical conditions, including stroke, wounds, cardiac and others.
The Idaho Statesman also earlier reported Buckalew’s account.
While a spokesperson for Encompass didn’t return our phone call where we hoped to ask questions about NPR’s reporting, it did send a statement. It reads:
“We are continuing to tap every resource available to provide personal protective equipment that meets the needs of our patients and staff as we deliver much needed care to our patient population. During these uncertain times, we will continue to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our patients and employees. Our focus is to use personal protective equipment that helps prevent the transmission of the virus. We are staying current with the CDC’s frequently updated guidance of the use of PPE, and our hospital has PPE for when it’s recommended for use by our clinicians and patients. Additionally, we have issued guidance permitting employees to wear their own commercially-produced masks if they are suitable for hospital use and are worn appropriately.”
Practices at St. Alphonsus-operated facilities
For hospitals that Saint Alphonsus does operate, spokesperson Mark Snider explains the practices.
“Saint Alphonsus Health System follows CDC guidelines in the appropriate use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N-95 respiratory masks, in the care of patients,” he told BoiseDev. “Patient history, condition, location, procedure to be performed, the colleague’s contribution to care, and other factors determine specific PPE requirements in individual patient encounters.”
Snider said the hospital system has “adequate” inventory of PPE at the moment.