S.E. Williams | Contributor
On Friday, May 1, 2020 nurses at the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, California held a protest in solidarity with nurses who have rallied in support of healthcare workers across the country in recent weeks.
Their goal—to bring attention to the tens of thousands of health care workers who continue to be infected and/or have succumbed to the deadly COVID-19.
One nurse held a sign which seemed to sum up the sentiments of the demonstrators. It read, “Don’t call me hero when I’m forced to be a martyr.”
Friday, May 1st was International Workers’ (May) Day, and the nurse rally at Desert Regional Medical Center was mirrored at 139 hospitals in 13 states according to the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) which represents more than 95,540 nurses.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., more than 60 nurses across the country have died of COVID-19. These deaths highlight the nurses’ demand for optimum Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
“Nurses signed up to care for their patients. They did not sign up to sacrifice their lives on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained nurse Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director, CNA/NNU. “On this day that celebrates the labor movement and working people, union nurses are standing up to demand the protections they need now!”
CNA/NNU members are calling on employers and the government to provide nurses and other health care workers with the highest level of protections, including powered air-purifying respirators, the single use of N95 masks, coveralls that incorporate head coverings, shoe coverings and gloves.
Otherwise, union officials contended, hospitals will remain breeding grounds for infection while nurses and health care workers continue to get sick and sidelined or worse, die, rendering them unable to care for patients.
The nurses’ union is critical of industries producing the equipment claiming it believes although the industry has produced an acceptable solution to the PPE shortage by implementing widespread use of various N95 decontamination systems, it deems this approach as both, “unacceptable and unsafe.”
It believes the president should not only order the mass production of PPE but also push for the passage of an emergency, temporary standard, mandating healthcare employers provide the protections needed for COVID-19.
On Tuesday April 21, members of the NNU protested in front of the White House calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement the emergency temporary standard.
NNU reports it originally petitioned OSHA on March 4, 2020 for such a standard but never received a response.
Desert Regional Medical Center Nurse Lori Ruggiero, RN, expressed her sentiments about the issue stating, “Nurses should have the proper personal protective equipment to ensure our safety and the safety of our family and patients.”