Nurses Take Action, Call for COVID-19 Workplace Protections, Staff Crisis Accountability

Kamari Esquerra

“(We want to) bring awareness to the public that the conditions inside the hospital are not great,” said Lonnie Dakote, a registered nurse at Desert Regional Medical Center.

Registered nurse members of the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United protested outside of Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs on Thursday morning, calling for better workplace protections and demanding employers be held accountable for the staffing crisis.

“We are continually working understaffed,” said Dakote. “It’s not uncommon to see areas of the ER that should normally be staffed and (full of) patients. Those (areas) are unattended right now.”

Dozens of nurses lined the streets of Indian Canyon Drive, holding signs saying “Staff Up For Safe Care”, and on a banner, paper slips documenting times nurses took unsafe assignments. 

“Some people are looking for roles that don’t deal with direct patient care because it’s unsafe, it’s just super stressful,” said Dakote. “They’re being asked to make choices that morally they don’t feel okay making.” 

In an effort to alleviate the statewide healthcare staffing shortage, California’s Department of Public Health instated a new isolation guideline. Healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, but are asymptomatic, can return to work immediately without isolation or testing. Local nurses say this guideline does more harm than good.

“When you have one nurse come in that’s sick, maybe you help your staffing issue on that day, but maybe they’re going to infect 5 other nurses that have to call out and can’t take care of the patients they would have taken care of had they not gotten sick,” said Dakote.

Not only are the nurses condemning the decision made by CDHP, they’re also demanding action be taken at the hospital level.

“We would like to see an increase in staffing, we would like to see an increase in the amount of adequate personal protective equipment they’re giving the staff,” said Dakote. “As of right now, only certain nurses are being supplied with the N-95 level of mask.”

Between COVID-19 and work-related stress, some nurses have decided to call it quits altogether.

“I can see the stress both in myself and my coworkers, some people have decided to step away from bedside nursing altogether,” said Dakote.

In a statement, Desert Regional Medical Center wrote, “The CNA, the labor union that represents our nursing staff, held a COVID Day of Action rally today outside Desert Regional Medical Center as part of a coordinated day of union activities at multiple hospitals across the state and nation.

As hospitals across the state continue to experience nursing shortages, we remain committed to doing everything possible to stay well-staffed. Our focus has been and continues to remain on the excellent care we provide our community as well as providing a safe work environment for our employees.

We deeply appreciate the dedication and professionalism shown by our nurses and other caregivers at Desert Regional Medical Center.”

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