Local Healthcare Workers Concerned About Protection While Treating COVID-19 Patients

Local union president says hospital employees fear “suicide mission.”

Healthcare workers are fighting the COVID-19 battle on multiple fronts. What’s known as PPE - personal protective equipment - is a precious commodity. 

“We don’t have everything, no hospital does,” said Rene Sanchez, the AFSCME Local 1363 president representing 5,000 employees at Jackson Health System. “My concern is that if we’re asking our men and women to go out there and protect us, I think we should do our best job to provide them the best available equipment.”

Sanchez said protective gear is not always available for healthcare workers when they begin their shifts.

“The care is there, we just wanna be protected, we don’t want to feel like it’s a suicide mission every time we go in," Sanchez said.

Jackson Health System released a statement saying, “Jackson’s top priority is protecting our patients and our caregivers - and that means providing every clinician with the appropriate PPE to safely treat COVID-19 patients. While we have an adequate amount of supplies, including N95 masks, for our current needs and for a possible surge in the future, we have implemented controls to ensure that they are being used responsibly and in accordance with guidelines set by the CDC.” 

On Tuesday an ER physician in New York City raised a different concern: tight quarters, and no place to change contaminated gear.

“Everyone’s kind of close up next to each other,” explained Dr. Calvin Sun. “If we’ve been exposed and we expose it to each other, it’s all on our suits... where do I take this off? Outside the hospital? Inside the break room?”

Sanchez said the situation in South Florida is not any better.

“We’re changing sometimes in break rooms... we’re taking that equipment off where we eat,” he said. “And that’s not the way it should be, it’s not ideal, but it’s the best we can do right now until we can develop something better.”

A Jackson Health System spokesperson said the staff is working to maintain the supply chain of protective gear, they are also taking donations through

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