Mar 30, 2020
Nurses at Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center (LAMC) went out into the street on Monday, March 23 to protest shortages they are facing in the midst of a surge of COVID-19 patients—a staff shortage; inadequate training and information; and, above all, a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Nurses at Kaiser facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area have been holding their own protests.
A Kaiser LAMC nurse at the rally said: “Nurses cannot get a N95 mask issued to them until a patient tests positive for the coronavirus, and by the time test results of the corona test returns, nurses may have contracted the virus themselves, and brought the virus home to their families.”
Nurses said their bosses were also telling them to reuse N95 masks (also known as respirators), which is unsafe. In downgrading their standards for protective equipment, however, Kaiser bosses have been following in the footsteps of government regulators. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) and California and L.A. County Public Health Departments have all weakened their safety rules for treating COVID-19 patients. Authorities admit that the basis for these rule changes, which compromise health care workers’ safety, is a shortage of equipment. In a countrywide survey sponsored by National Nurses United, only 24% of 8,200 nurses surveyed said their employer has enough PPE on stock to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients.
Alerted by health care workers on social media about the shortages, some people who have masks (leftovers from the fire season, for example) are responding with donations. But what these private citizens are doing obviously cannot nearly make up for what executives of some of the largest health care companies, and government authorities, have not done—despite the warnings of health care workers, and for weeks, before the big crisis finally hit.