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(WASHINGTON) – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has spread and intensified across the United States in the last few weeks, hospital workers say that they are still being forced to ration protective gear and it is hard to get vital information about the workplace from their employers.
In a new survey by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents more than 50,000 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other health care workers nationwide, nearly half of the respondents said they are not getting the latest updates on safety protocols in their hospitals or the status of personal protective equipment (PPE) from their management.
The survey—completed by over 1,300 members at facilities across 31 states—provides statistical validation to reports about the stressful and under-resourced conditions in hospitals across the country as frontline workers face the pandemic head-on.
In an effort to support frontline health care workers, the Teamsters are driving solutions that include but are not limited to notifying survey respondents’ facilities that they have been identified as noncompliant with respect to employee satisfaction or patient experience; mobilizing union health care workers to advocate collectively for themselves and quality, safe patient care standards within the community; demanding CEOs in the industry prioritize the necessary protection their employees need and not protect their own salaries first; and securing needed treatment for health care workers facing PTSD following their work amid the pandemic.
For example, one day after Teamsters Local 332 members in Michigan raised the alarm about the lack of protective equipment at Ascension Genesys hospital in Grand Blanc, Michigan, nurses and other staff had the N95 and other masks they needed.
Respondents included Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), certified nursing assistants, hospital technicians, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), phlebotomists, janitors, paramedics and other frontline workers in the healthcare field.
While 85 percent of healthcare workers said they are rationing their PPE, 64 percent said they don’t have access to N95 face masks that they need. Forty-five percent said they do not feel they are being informed of new updates from their facility around safety protocols and status of PPE. Another 36 percent said hospital executives are not making rounds or inspections to evaluate what processes are or are not working.
“Most of the communication is coming through our emails and we were not getting a lot of info from the supervisors and management. I had to get info from a doctor. I found it disheartening,” said a nurse in Michigan. “If you want updates you have to get on the computer and check your email even though you’re working there in the hospital. I realize they are busy too, but first-line supervisors should give that info.”
“Health care workers are on the front line of this crisis and doing everything in their power to save the lives of patients who have tested positive for the virus,” said Nina Bugbee, Director of the Teamsters Health Care Division. “The Teamsters are working with members and employers to secure the PPE needed to protect essential workers during this pandemic and fix the structural issues that are putting lives at risk. Hospitals must step up to their responsibilities to their workers and their communities, ensuring all staff have the protective gear they need. This is not a time for half measures. Hospital management must keep frontline workers informed and safe.”
The survey’s key findings include:
- 85 percent said PPE is being rationed in their workplace.
- 61 percent said they don’t have access to face shields.
- 64 percent said they don’t have access to N95 masks.
- 47 percent said they don’t have access to gowns.
- 35 percent said they don’t have access to surgical masks.
- 45 percent said management has not educated them about what to do if they think they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.
- 45 percent said they do not feel they are being informed of new updates from their facility around safety protocols and status of PPE.
- 36 percent said hospital executives are not making rounds or inspections to evaluate what processes are or are not working.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.