Celia Yap-Banago was exposed to the virus after caring for an infected patient, and had raised concerns about the hospital's lack of PPE before her death, according to National Nurses United

By Maria Pasquini
April 27, 2020 02:10 PM
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After 40 years on the job, a Kansas City nurse died after testing positive for coronavirus.

Celia Yap-Banago, who worked for Missouri’s Research Medical Center, was exposed to the virus after caring for an infected patient, according to National Nurses United, the largest union of nurses in the country. She died on April 21.

Yap-Banag had been in quarantine since March 25, after testing positive for COVID-19, the hospital said in a statement to 41 Action News.

“Since that time, she had been recovering at home while under the care of her personal physician,” the statement read. “This is a deeply tragic situation and a reminder of the courage she — and her fellow nursing and frontline colleagues — exhibit every day during these unprecedented times.”

Before her death, Yap-Banago had “expressed concern over inadequate COVID-19 preparation” at the hospital, according to the union. They say her concerns included a lack of personal protective equipment for hospital staff, delayed notification time about suspected infections, and expecting staff to continue to come to work when they had been exposed.

Celia Yap-Banago
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“Celia was an amazing nurse that dedicated her service for countless years at Research and a dear friend to all of us,” said Research RN Charlene Carter, according to a union press release. “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.”

“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,” Carter added.

HCA Midwest Health, which owns the hospital, has spoken out against the claims made by the union.

“The challenges the pandemic has created for all hospitals are well understood. Research Medical Center is doing everything we can to protect our colleagues, not only today, but ensure supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) well into the future,” they said in a statement to KCTV News.

In a statement to PEOPLE, HCA Midwest Health refuted claims that their staff was not provided with appropriate PPE, and said that they instituted a “universal masking policy” in March that is “in line with CDC guidance.”

“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,” they said. “… We offer our deepest sympathies to her family and friends, and all who she blessed along the way.”

A co-worker’s of Yap-Banago said that the nurse was infected with COVID-19 in late March, according to KCUR. At the time, Yap-Banago was not wearing any kind of PPE.

HCA Midwest Health began requiring all hospital staff to wear PPE when treating COVID-19 patients on March 30, KCUR reported, noting that Pascaline Muhindura, a Research Medical Center nurse and union representative, has said staff have “not seen any difference” in availability.

Earlier this month, nurses at the Kansas City Hospital — as well as nurses at 15 other HCA facilities around the country — held social distance protests over lack of supplies.

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In an emotional message, Yap-Banago’s family reflected on her extraordinary dedication to her career, even in the face of a global pandemic.

“When she tested positive for COVID-19, her one goal was to make sure no one else got it from her, Isolated for weeks, she slowly regained her strength. She went peacefully,” her family wrote in a statement to 41 Action News. “We always thought of my mom as a hero, our hero. Putting on scrubs for 40 years and through a pandemic, now we know she is a hero.”

“She wanted to go back to work and she was preparing to. We miss her, we adore her, we love her. The world lost a good one, but heaven gained one,” they added. “Keep her in your thoughts or say a prayer for our (and your) angel.”

Two days after her death, nearly 100 people gathered outside the Kansas City Hospital for a candlelight vigil, according to KCTV.

“You’re either not smart to be in this job for 40 years or you are so compassionate and selfless that you dedicate your entire life to helping others,” said Jhulan Banag, her son, according to the outlet.

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