COVID-19 is unlike any pandemic we have faced before. Medical experts and healthcare workers alike are working tirelessly on the front line to save lives despite the virulent conditions that they face – many of them, without access to the critical protective equipment they need to continue the fight against Coronavirus.
On Wednesday, April 1st, the CEO of California’s largest union of home-care workers joined elected officials and other health workers to call on the federal government for an immediate supply of personal protective equipment. The video conference call acted as a juncture for addressing the safety needs of healthcare and home workers and petitioned for and immediate call-to-action, focusing on the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) being provided to both employers and employees throughout the state of California and beyond, as well as the lack of response from the federal government including the implementation of the Defense Production Act.
April Verrett, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015, the nation’s largest long-term care union representing 400,000 nursing home and home care workers throughout California, began the call with an urgent call to action for the federal government.
“Today, nursing home employers from care workers and state legislators come to you united to demand that our federal government throws absolutely everything it has in its arsenal against the wall to ensure that skilled nursing facilities and those who work in them, and those who live in them have everything that they need to fight the monster as healthcare professionals have come to call the coronavirus and COVID-19. We know that every day, workers go into skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facility to do God’s work, and we have to make sure they are equipped with everything they need to take care of their patients and to keep them their selves and their family safe and healthy.” – April Verrett
Without proper personal protective equipment (PPE) frontline workers are being put in harm’s way and putting their own health at risk every single day due to inaction by national leaders. This equipment is most essential to slow the spread to our most vulnerable and our elders in the nursing home centers the SEIU represents. CEO of ReNew Health Group, Crystal Solorzano, weighed in on the peculiarity of this particular pandemic and how it has introduced a completely new crisis of supply shortage to workers in the health field.
“When I asked the nurses why they didn’t tell us that their supplies were running low. They said they didn’t know because they had never experienced a time before that the supplies wouldn’t just come in. So, when delays were happening, essential supply people never really understood to elevate that concern. Because this is just a new problem that we’ve never experienced in our lives. It’s my job as a CEO to make sure that my employees are safe. And to me, if my employees aren’t safe, my patients can’t be safe.” – Crystal Solorzano
With the equipment shortage, healthcare workers are turning to desperate measures to make masks and protective gear out of supplies they have access to – raincoats, trash bags, excess fabric, and going to stores like the beauty supply and car repair shops to find masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The lack of visibility from the federal government on more funding has driven facilities to make executive decisions to re-use certain equipment. Many facilities are working to partner with prisons to produce the protective equipment that’s needed for employees. Thousands of nurses and doctors across the country are feeling the effects of supply shortage, and if immediate action is not taken seriously, the ramifications of the lack of urgency could be catastrophic.
“I’m so grateful to have SEIU in partnership and alliance with our employees and with me, because we have to make a change together. And if we don’t all do this together, if we don’t co-create, if we don’t come together, right now, we have a potential of having such more disaster than we already are expecting.” – Crystal Solorzano
As SEIU, elected officials, and medical workers continue to urgently call on Congress to ensure that healthcare workers, providers and states have the resources to meet the incredible demand facing them and support the production of more medical supplies, coalitions in Los Angeles have come together in the Garment District to manufacture and distribute their own form of PPE for local workers.
With the response of the federal government adding more funding, the shortage can be alleviated quickly, slowing the spread of COVID-19 to our most vulnerable and eliminating the risks that our loved ones on the frontline take daily to save us and those across the nation.