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“This Is Unacceptable:” ‘Fed Up With A Lack Of’ Personal Protection Equipment, Union-Represented Hospital Workers ‘Demand Action’ From The Federal Government

Published Thursday, March 26, 2020
by Marc Bussanich/
“This Is Unacceptable:” ‘Fed Up With A Lack Of’ Personal Protection Equipment, Union-Represented Hospital Workers ‘Demand Action’ From The Federal Government

(NEW YORK CITY) – Front-line Health Care Workers across the country are facing an alarming shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and their respective Unions are calling on the Federal Government to lead a coordinated effort nationwide to manufacture and distribute facial masks, gloves and gowns

During a media call that took place earlier this week, four Health Care Workers from across the Nation discussed their harrowing day-to-day experiences trying to care for patients in different kinds of health care environments where hospitals and nursing homes are rationing PPE and Home Caregivers are having to spend their own money to buy it

“Our ‘natural response is that we want to wear the masks, that’s what our training tells us, but we know there is simply not enough to go around,’” said Gabriel Montoya, an Emergency Room (ER) Assistant in California and a Member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-United Healthcare Workers (UHW). 

The California Medico pointed out the Federal Government once repurposed factories for war production during World War II and can do the same today: “The Federal Government ‘has the authority to take control of factories now.’  ‘We can repurpose them’ to make masks, gowns and gloves.  ‘We’ve done it in the past to create weapons of war, why not do it now for tools of caring.”

Similarly, Melanie Arciaga, a Registered Nurse (RN) in Seattle, has seen a lot of rationing at her hospital in Downtown Seattle: “Masks ‘are kept under lock and key and there is even a limited allowance per day of hand sanitizer.’  ‘This is unacceptable.’  As the crisis continues, ‘we need access to more PPE so that everyone is protected.’”

Meanwhile, DeSharna Johnson, a Home Care Worker in California, who faces the challenge of caring for her 64-year old mother and a 91-year old neighbor with Alzheimer’s, said she doesn’t earn enough money at $13.80 per hour to afford to replenish PPE regularly.  “Whether we work in hospitals, nursing homes or in the homes of those ‘who are most at risk’ to Covid19 exposure, ‘it’s critical that our government take all the steps necessary right now to protect all Health Care Workers and protect all of our patients,’” she said.

And Yazmin Soto, a Certified Nursing Assistant (CAN) in Perth Amboy, New Jerseyu, said she arrived at work last Friday and was given only one disposable face mask to use: “I was told to ‘wear it all day long, and then put it in a bag to bring home with me so that I can wear it again the next day.’  These masks ‘are not meant to be reused, especially not for multiple days.’  ‘I can’t afford to get sick, I’m a single parent and I don’t make much money.’” 

After hearing their stories, SEIU National President Mary Kay Henry emphasized that while Health Care Workers are doing all they can under great stress to treat patients with the virus and answering the call to protect as many as people as possible - they can’t do it alone

That’s why she submitted a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar - outlining some of the steps the Federal Government should be taking to contain and stop the spread of COVID-19 (All the demands the Union has made is available for viewing here.)

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