UCSF nurses rally for better protection from COVID-19

Registered nurses hold signs at a news conference at UCSF Medical Center in Mission Bay calling on the hospital to provide nurses with better personal protection equipment when treating COVID-19 patients at a news conference on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Registered nurses hold signs at a news conference at UCSF Medical Center in Mission Bay calling on the hospital to provide nurses with better personal protection equipment when treating COVID-19 patients at a news conference on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Registered nurse Maureen Dugan speaks at a news conference at UCSF Medical Center in Mission Bay calling on the hospital to provide nurses with better personal protection equipment when treating COVID-19 patients at a news conference on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Speech pathologist Erin Brightwell speaks at a news conference at UCSF Medical Center in Mission Bay calling on the hospital to provide nurses with better personal protection equipment when treating COVID-19 patients at a news conference on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Registered nurse Andrew Castro speaks at a news conference at UCSF Medical Center in Mission Bay calling on the hospital to provide nurses with better personal protection equipment when treating COVID-19 patients at a news conference on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Registered nurse Ashley Bernon speaks at a news conference at UCSF Medical Center in Mission Bay calling on the hospital to provide nurses with better personal protection equipment when treating COVID-19 patients at a news conference on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Registered nurses at UCSF Medical Center in Mission Bay head to a news conference to call for greater personal protection equipment when treating COVID-19 patients on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

A dozen registered nurses from UCSF gathered outside the Mission Bay medical center on Friday calling on the hospital to better equip them with personal protective equipment (PPE) as they treat patients affected by the coronavirus.

Backed up by representatives of the California Nurses Association, the nurses said the hospital is lacking in protective equipment and instead they must wear thin surgical masks, often for entire shifts. They called on the hospital to acquire N95 respirator masks and other protective gear so that they can perform their duties and safely treat COVID-19 patients.

Hospital officials responded in a statement saying that “UCSF Health has extensive protocols and PPE in place to protect our care providers, staff and other patients, based on the latest science and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), and the state and county departments of public health (DPH),” the statement said.

“PPE supply chains remain unstable, but we have been able to build up our overall supplies to a sufficient level that we can support all of our valued care providers and also accommodate a potential surge in COVID-19 patients. In some categories of PPE, we have reached supply levels that allow us to share supplies with dozens of other hospitals in need,” said Dr. Josh Adler, Executive Vice President, Physician Services.

Seeking workers’ compensation eligibility

The Nurses Association also said Friday that it is cosponsoring Assembly Bill 664 (Cooper) designed to protect nurses by providing presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation during a state of emergency.

California is one of many states that have laws that grant some public safety employees, such as police officers and firefighters, “presumptive eligibility” for workers’ compensation. However, nurses have no such protections at all, even though, by the nature of their work, they suffer some of the highest risks of injury and illness of any profession. This bill would correct this unfair treatment.

Cosponsored by CNA and introduced by assemblymembers Jim Cooper, Lorena Gonzalez, and Rob Bonta, AB 664 would ensure that nurses, first responders, and health care workers have presumptive eligibility for workers’ compensation if they fall ill to COVID-19.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United has 100,000 members in more than 200 facilities throughout California and more than 150,000 RNs nationwide.

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