The Massachusetts Nurses Association and nurses at Mass General Brigham are expressing renewed concerns about overcrowding on major Boston area hospital staff shuttles, which they say is putting nurses and their patients at risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

“High ridership is between 6-8 a.m. and again at 6-8 p.m. and that's when overcrowding is at its worst,” said nurse Selena Loiselle, who works 12-hour shifts at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and catches the early morning crosstown shuttle — which transports staff members to Mass General and Brigham and Women's hospitals — from the garage at Mass Ave and Melnea Cass Blvd.

“The shuttle is at capacity from 6:30 a.m. and on,” Loiselle told WGBH News, adding that when the shuttle is full, riders are sitting shoulder to shoulder.

Nurses initially raised concerns about the shuttles in March, as reported by WGBH News,and management temporarily allowed staff to park in hospital garages. But Loiselle said as of the beginning of June, staff can no longer use the parking lots and must ride the shuttles.

The nurses’ union is calling on Mass General Brigham management to agree to widely accepted social distancing standards on shuttles and implement a 50% capacity limit to reduce the risk of exposure.

“We are wearing a mask, but some of these rides are 20 minutes, half an hour, depending on the traffic,” said Loiselle, adding that she'd like Mass General Brigham to honor the 50% capacity limit and add more shuttles.

“To ensure the safety of all individuals riding Mass General Brigham shuttle buses, we are strictly enforcing proper masking and hand-hygiene policies on all vehicles,” said Erica S. Shenoy, medical director of the Regional Emerging Special Pathogens Treatment Center at Mass General Hospital, in a statement. “Ridership will not exceed the number of seats, and no standing is permitted, Consistent with public health guidance and hospital policies, face masks must be worn when physical distancing is not possible, including when using public transportation.”

But photos taken by a Massachusetts Nursing Association member on June 22 and June 24 show riders standing while riding the shuttle.

thumbnail_BWH 6.24.2020 Crosstown Shuttle 730pm.jpg
Nurses and staff from Mass General Brigham crowd into the Crosstown Shuttle raising concern about exposure to coronavirus for themselves and patients.
Courtesy of the Massachusetts Nurses Association

A statement from Mass General Brigham said most shuttles run at 50% capacity or less, but "[at] peak hours, the Crosstown route has occasionally exceeded 50% capacity, with a new shuttle arriving every 5-7 minutes."

“Nurses jammed into shuttles, crowding each other as they ride across the city, is an avoidable and unacceptable danger to the safety of nurses and patients,” said Trish Powers, Brigham OR nurse and chair of the hospital's Massachusetts Nurses Association Bargaining Committee. “The hospital is telling the public it is doing everything to keep patients, families and staff safe but will not even commit to a basic social distancing standard.“