Some version of “California leads the way” has long meant that the West Coast giant often is the leading edge of change that eventually will come to rest of the nation. On April 1, 2021, a new California law went into effect that requires hospitals to maintain a supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) sufficient for 90 days of patient care.1

In the harsh retrospect of an ongoing pandemic, this does not seem like much to ask. We need only to remember the pleas for PPE by healthcare workers or that “bandanas and scarves” actually found its way to print in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) document to recall the dire days of scarcity as a novel virus emerged and spread.

“In many cases, employers have locked up or rationed N95 respirators, leaving nurses and other healthcare workers unprotected,” the law states. “In some cases, nurses have been disciplined for bringing their own [PPE] or demanding that appropriate [PPE] be provided when treating COVID-19-positive patients.”

Beginning April 1, 2021, an employer shall maintain a three-month stockpile of the following:

  • N95 filtering facepiece respirators
  • Powered air-purifying respirators with high-efficiency particulate air filters
  • Elastomeric air-purifying respirators and appropriate particulate filters or cartridges
  • Surgical masks
  • Isolation gowns
  • Eye protection
  • Shoe coverings

The California Nurses Association, which sponsored the bill, issued the following statement by American Nurses Association President Cathy Kennedy, RN: “Hospitals across the country failed to provide nurses and other healthcare workers with optimal PPE when COVID-19 hit and the consequences were devastating and deadly. Hospitals have a responsibility to ensure that their employees have the equipment they need to stay safe. This new law is an important step in holding hospitals accountable and protecting nurses and other healthcare workers.”

Some of the provisions of the new law for hospitals are summarized as follows:

  • Maintain a supply of specified equipment in an amount equal to three months of normal consumption. Provide an inventory of its stockpile and a copy of its written procedures, as specified, to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health upon request.
  • Establish and implement effective written procedures for periodically determining the quantity and types of equipment used in its normal consumption.
  • Supply PPE to employees who provide direct patient care or provide services that directly support patient care in a general acute care hospital. An employer shall ensure that employees use the PPE supplied to them.
  • Single-use equipment in the stockpile shall be unexpired, new, and not previously worn or used.
  • An employer who violates the requirement to maintain a supply of equipment shall be assessed a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for each violation, unless the department determines that the employer could not meet the requirement due to issues beyond their control, such as unfilled orders from suppliers or the PPE has been damaged or stolen.

Reference

  1. California Legislative Information. AB-2537 Personal protective equipment: Health care employees. (2019-2020). Published Sept. 30, 2020. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB2537