Missouri Nurse Who Raised Concerns About Lack of Protective Gear Dies of Coronavirus a Week Before Her Retirement

A nurse who raised concerns about the lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) at the hospital where she worked has died of coronavirus after caring for an infected patient.

Celia Yap Banago had worked at Research Medical Center (RMC) in Kansas City, Missouri, for 40 years and was due to retire this week, the National Nurses Union (NNU) said in a news release. She died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, last Tuesday, the union said.

According to the union, she was among the registered nurses who expressed their concerns about the lack of preparedness for the pandemic at RMC.

Celia Yap Banago, RN died from #COVID19 after caring for an infected patient just days before retirement.

"Nurses know the best way to honor Celia's life is to fight to #ProtectNurses and other workers on the front lines of this crisis." @RNMarkowitz https://t.co/IE2d05hHVR

— NationalNursesUnited (@NationalNurses) April 26, 2020

They said they were worried the hospital had insufficient supplies of PPE for nurses and other health care workers and said there had been delays in notifying nurses about their exposure to suspected COVID-19 patients. Nurses also claimed they were expected to continue coming in to work even after being exposed.

"Celia was an amazing nurse that dedicated her service for countless years at Research and a dear friend to all of us," said Charlene Carter, a registered nurse at RMC. "I feel that I can speak for many nurses when I say that the loss of one of our dear fallen soldiers on the front line of this pandemic is more than devastating, it is a wake-up call."

Carter told KCUR that she and Banago treated a patient last month who was later confirmed to have COVID-19 without N95 masks or any of the other PPE typically used in such cases.

She added: "Nurses have an instinctive conduct of being so selfless that I believe others don't realize. No nurse should have to sacrifice their life in exchange for conserved profits by the rationing of proper protective equipment.

"Nurses all over the country need proper protection every day so that we can continue to save patients' lives while sparing our own."

Nurse protest
Nurses protest against the lack of personal protection equipment amid the COVID-19 pandemic in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 21, 2020. Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

The NNU, the largest union of registered nurses in the county, held a protest outside the White House on Tuesday—the day Banago died—to "call attention to the tens of thousands of health care workers who have become infected with COVID-19" due to the lack of PPE.

The union also organzied a candlelit vigil to honour Banago at the hospital on Thursday.

"We honor the life and career of Celia who gave so much of herself for her patients," the union's executive director Bonnie Castillo said. "No nurse, no health care worker, should have to put their lives, their health, and their safety at risk for the failure of hospitals and our elected leaders to provide the protection they need to safely care for patients."

Nurses from RMC joined others who work for facilities also operated by HCA Midwest Health to protest the lack of protective gear earlier this month, the union said.

"We are heartbroken by the passing of our colleague, Celia Yap-Banago, a nearly-40-year nursing veteran at Research Medical Center," a spokesperson for HCA Midwest Health said in a statement to Newsweek.

"It is difficult to put into words what Celia means to our hospital and to the countless number of patients she cared for. Celia was beloved by everyone who knew her. Her impact on the nursing profession and to those she worked with will be everlasting due to the mentorship, training, support and guidance she provided our colleagues. We offer our deepest sympathies to her family and friends, and all who she blessed along the way. We are reminded of the courage she—and our nursing family exhibit every day."

The statement added that Research Medical Center's "preparedness and planning started months ago, and since the outset of the pandemic, we have followed guidelines on PPE from infectious disease experts, including those at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)."

It continued: "We continue to do everything in our power to help ensure the protection of our colleagues, not only today, but into the future as the pandemic continues to evolve. Our efforts include a universal masking policy implemented in March requiring all staff in all areas to wear masks, including N95s, in line with CDC guidance.

"We are grateful to the many nurses, staff and physicians who have supported us through this difficult time, and have demonstrated continued confidence in Research Medical Center and the protection we provide our colleagues and patients."

This article has been updated with a statement from HCA Midwest Health.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html)
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.