From Washington to Boston, especially in those cities hard-hit by the coronavirus, the National Nurses Union
(150,000 members) has been demonstrating in front of hospitals demanding adequate safety equipment to protect
them and physicians from infection. In Los Angeles there is been a series of rolling demonstrations from different
Random Lengths was at the combined protest and press conference at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica
on April 13. Some 50 nurses and physicians participated in the action on the steps in front of the UCLA hospital as
well as circling the block in cars with signs and blasting horns.
RN Valerie Ewald complained of the inadequacy of the protective equipment afforded them. “You can still be
exposed using simple masks. We need the higher grade of N95 masks. When you go into a room you don’t know if
you will be exposed. This is especially true if there is an intubation going on and patients’ fluids can contaminate a
wide area. We want to be allowed to use the better and more effective N95 masks all the time.”
Eleanor Escado added that, “We also want the government to ramp up production of the equipment. We want at
least CDC guidelines at all facilities. We do have an open dialogue with the hospital however they are asking us to
reuse and 95 masks after decontamination.”
Asked about the process during intake, Ms. Ewald responded “Patients are screened at the entrance and
quarantined appropriately. They are isolated if needed.”
Another nurse, Andrea Peregrin further noted “We are not fearful for our lives but we want to be; protected we
would not have taken these jobs if we did not want to help people, but we do not feel safe with UV sterilized
Victory for Nurses at St. Johns
The registered nurses of Providence Saint John’s Health Center are declaring victory after hospital management
announced that health care workers throughout the Providence system will be issued N95 respirator masks to wear
when caring for COVID positive or potentially COVID positive patients, announced the California Nurses
Association/National Nurses United.
Over this past week, at least 15 nurses have refused to take patient assignments unless provided with N95 or
higher-standard personal protective equipment (PPE) and 10 of those nurses were suspended and sent home. The
nurses have been issued flimsy surgical-type masks that do not offer airborne protection as required by California’s
Cal-OSHA aerosol transmissible diseases standard. The hospital has N95 masks in its possession, but denied
nurses working on the assigned COVID unit access to them unless they were performing certain procedures. Even
doctors had advised the nurses not to enter patient rooms without wearing an N95. A number of nurses on the unit
have begun to test positive for COVID.
More than 50 nurses on Saturday held a socially-distanced demonstration outside the facility to protest the
hospital’s faulty infection control policies.
“It’s a victory,” said Chelsea Halmy, a medical-surgical RN who works on the COVID unit and is one of the
suspended nurses. “They’re finally doing what they should have been doing in the first place. We are glad, but it’s
upsetting that it had to come to this point and that our safety wasn’t their first priority. We still have so much more
work to do.”
At the same time at scores of factories, airports and workplaces, from meat and poultry packing plants to Amazon
warehouses and local groceries, workers have taken the initiative to demand adequate safety protection mandated
by the CDC to protect the millions of frontline workers.