Nurses, nursing assistants and other health care workers protested outside Kendall Regional Medical Center on Wednesday, claiming they don’t have enough protective gear to do their jobs.
"We’re lacking equipment. We’re lacking the gowns. We’re lacking masks," said Joaquin Garcia, an x-ray technician. "I’m afraid I’m gonna go home and get my kids sick and my family."
The frustration was set off by a new policy change that limits the use of N95 masks. HCA says it has to limit the use of N95s because they could run out. They’re now only being used in the most dangerous procedures involving intubations and ventilators.
But nurses like Mery Losada say all workers treating COVID-19 patients need them.
"We are less than two or three inches away from our patients. These patients are coughing constantly," Losada said.
Instead nurses are being given surgical masks, which they say aren’t as effective.
"In all my years of nursing, and I lived though the HIV epidemic, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s scary and it makes me sad that my profession has gone to this level."
A spokesperson for the hospital released this statement saying in part:
"This is not a time to create conflict and dissension within healthcare organizations that are doing everything possible to protect caregivers and patients ... This pandemic has strained the worldwide supply of PPE as COVID-19 cases and utilization of PPE exceed the ability of suppliers to manufacture PPE. This is not a challenge that is unique to Kendall Regional Medical Center or any other hospital."
"I’m scared for my coworkers. I’m scared for my family members. I’m scared for my community," Losada said.
Workers also say that they can’t just go online and buy their own protective gear. They say they have to use the gear that the hospital gives them.