RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Following the death of two of their co-workers from COVID-19, Riverside Community Hospital staff plan to picket outside the facility Friday because of what they say is a lack of personal protective equipment.
“Workers report widespread shortages of PPE and the unsafe recycling of single-use equipment like masks and gloves,” said Steve Trossman, a spokesman for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, the union that represents more than 1,000 employees at the hospital.
In response, Cherie Crutcher, a hospital spokeswoman, said in a statement that employees have been provided adequate personal protection equipment and that the planned demonstration was a “misguided tactic.”
“While we currently have adequate supplies of PPE, we continue to provide safeguards that are consistent with CDC guidelines and help ensure the protection of our colleagues, not only today, but into the future as the pandemic evolves,” she said. “SEIU fails to recognize the reality (that) all hospitals nationwide are facing, that this pandemic has strained the worldwide supply of personal protective equipment, including masks, face shields and gowns.”
The facility is part of HCA Healthcare, a Nashville-based for-profit hospital operator.
Trossman said the company has received more than $5.3 billion in taxpayer-funded coronavirus relief funds and had gross revenues of more than $12 billion in the first quarter of 2020.
Two of the hospital’s workers have already died from COVID-19.
In May, Rosa Luna, a housekeeper of 25 years died from the virus, union officials said.
“She suffered a horrible, horrible death. This not like the flu. It’s a thousand times worse,” Luna’s daughter Dora Reaza told NBC4.
Last month, Sally Lara, a laboratory assistant who came out of retirement to work at the hospital during the pandemic, also died from COVID-19 complications.
“My mother lost her life in the pursuit of helping others, and I strongly believe if proper prevention was in place, this tragedy could have been avoided,” said Vanessa Campos, Lara’s daughter, in a statement. “She is not another number in the death toll. She is truly a hero who stood up and spoke out against injustice for all people.”
The union said that “multiple caregivers” at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’re risking our lives every single day,” Raymond Valdivia, a nursing assistant at Riverside Community, said in a statement. “But HCA management isn’t giving us the PPE we need or telling us if we’ve been exposed to COVID-19, even after two co-workers died from exposure and more are coming down with the virus. It’s not safe for us or our patients. Do we have to see more hospital workers die while HCA collects billions from taxpayer bailouts?”
The demonstration is set to occur between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and all participants will be required to social distance and wear masks, Trossman said.