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Harlem Hospital nurses demand help: 'Huge population' of workforce is sick

harlem hospital nurse rally coronavirus
Posted at 11:54 AM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 11:54:43-04

HARLEM, Manhattan — Nurses rallied outside of NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem Monday morning to demand more staff and personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus crisis.

The health care workers say hospital administrators are rationing PPE, including N95 masks. They argue hospital protocols are putting patients, nurses and their families at risk.

“This is a tragedy, without a doubt,” said Sarah Dowd, RN. “But we’re here to fight because we deserve better.”

Dowd outlined several issues the nurses are facing, including reusing one N95 mask for five shifts — about 60 hours of work — and not being given 14 days of sick time if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

“We’re calling on Dr. Katz to provide us with some immediate assistance, including a new N95 mask for every shift,” Dowd said. “There’s no data that suggests that masks are effective with this duration of use.”

The hospital also desperately needs more staff, ventilators and other critical equipment to fight COVID-10, according to the nurses. Dowd commended efforts to increase nursing staff but said many doctors and respiratory therapists are out sick.

“Right now there is a huge population of our hospital workforce that is out sick and that has reduced our capacity to care for the patients,” she said.

The nurses also called on Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, to implement a program providing disposable scrubs or laundry service so that health care workers do not carry the virus out into the community and into their homes.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have warned for weeks that New York is struggling to keep up with the demand for personal protective equipment and ventilators in hospitals as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow. Both officials have called on the federal government for more assistance.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped on Sunday to 122,031 statewide, including 67,551 in New York City. The state's death toll rose to 4,159. Of those fatalities, over 2,624 are located in New York City.