Nurses at two San Jose hospitals Wednesday joined a nationwide protest demanding more protection as they treat patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nurses have been protesting across the Bay area since the pandemic started, and while the supply of personal protective equipment has increased overall, there is still a pressing need for more of it, the nurses say.
A small group of nurses protested outside Good Samaritan Hospital, demanding more protective equipment, including N-95 masks and head-to-toe coverings. A slightly larger group protested outside San Jose's Regional Medical Center.
National Nurses United organized protests at 15 hospitals in seven states, all under the ownership of HCA Healthcare.
The union says at some of those hospitals, nurses have not been informed when they were exposed to patients infected with the coronavirus.
The nurses say they’re just trying to protect their patients, themselves and their families:
"I have three kids and parents who are very high risk for coronavirus infection," said Emmanuel Pangan, a nurse at Regional Medical Center. "I know what it’s like, and I heard horror stories about not being able to see their families when they get hospitalized."
HCA Healthcare released a statement to NBC Bay Area on Wednesday, saying in part it is "doing everything possible to protect caregivers and patients." (See the full statement below.)
If the Centers for Disease Control and other health leaders change their position to recommend the public where masks when leaving home, there could be even more pressure on the supply of masks.
HCA Healthcare's full statement:
"We are letting our employees know that this is not the time to create conflict within the hospital as we are doing everything possible to protect caregivers and patients. This is the time to depend on each other, trusting that we are doing everything possible for each other to come together as a hospital family and deliver on our mission. We are deeply committed to protecting colleagues and our patients every day, including when faced with this unprecedented medical crisis.
"Across the globe, this pandemic has strained the worldwide supply of PPE as COVID-19 cases and utilization of PPE exceed the ability of suppliers to manufacture the products we need. This is not a challenge that is unique to any other hospital or health system in the United States. We have taken the following actions regarding the provision of PPE and pay for our nurses and care team: 1. Enacted universal masking for all of our employees. 2. Appointed a PPE steward to oversee priority deployment of PPE effective for Cove with 19 where and when it is needed most. 3. HCA has created strategically located PPE distribution centers across our campuses to quickly deliver equipment. 4. We’ve established a pandemic pay continuation program. We stand ready. We stand together."