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Atrium Health nurse expresses concern about hospital's deployment effort

The nurse says she doesn’t know where she’d been sent or for how long, but she feels pressured by the hospital to agree to the deployment.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There are more employee safety concerns about Atrium Health’s plan to fight the coronavirus.

The WCNC Charlotte Defenders team first reported on the hospital’s redeployment effort earlier this week.  A worker said Atrium is asking staff to sign a form agreeing to go to ‘mission-critical areas’.  For the first time, an Atrium Health nurse is speaking out.

The nurse said she doesn’t know where she’d be sent or for how long, but she feels pressured by the hospital to agree to the deployment. WCNC Charlotte agreed to disguise her identity.

The nurse told WCNC Charlotte she is concerned about the vague language in the letter.

“If I have to care for those that are inflicted with this pandemic, I most certainly will, but I want to know where I'd be stationed,” she said. “If you were in the military, they'd tell you where you're stationed.”

The Defenders Team also obtained a 10-page overview describing the deployment.  It said Atrium is not only recruiting doctors and nurses, but also non-clinical staff. In fact, the first employee to contact WCNC Charlotte said she works in IT.  According to the overview, once employees agree to the deployment, they would be committed to taking any ‘reasonable role’. Anyone who refuses to accept the deployment may have to use PTO time, the documents said.   

WCNC Charlotte asked the nurse if she felt pressured to signing the form.

“Partially, yes,” she said. “I did not want to lose out on benefits.”

The nurse told us she plans to seek legal advice. The Defenders team reached out to Jake Modla who is a labor and employment lawyer.  Modla said it’s too early to give a legal opinion until the agreement is signed, sealed, delivered, and people are sent on their assignments.

“If and when the need for this redeployment occurs that's when you can really gauge the legality of what's going on,” said Modla.

In the meantime, Modla said employees have to make their own personal decisions without having all the information.

“I feel like you perform a job better when you have these questions answered,” the nurse told WCNC Charlotte.

Atrium Health did not respond to specific questions about what's being asked of employees, but instead referred WCNC Charlotte to this statement they sent us earlier in the week:

“Given the current state of emergency, we are preparing for a significant surge of patients who have a virus the world has never seen before. And we couldn’t be more proud of our healthcare workers who are on the front lines of caring for our patients and communities.

At a time when thousands of organizations and many health systems across the country, and even locally, are facing significant financial hardships and laying off workers, we are striving to ensure our employees maintain meaningful roles. Further, we are working tirelessly to ease the personal burdens that many of our teammates are facing by significantly enhancing childcare benefits, providing food and lodging options, and creating a Caregiver Heroes Fund for employees with special financial needs caused by the coronavirus – to name a few. We have also created additional choices for teammates who are willing to take on alternative assignments in this time of need.

Above all, the safety and well-being of our teammates and health of our patients remain our highest priorities, and we are guided daily by our mission to improve health, elevate hope, and advance healing for all.”

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