Nurses outside Harlem Hospital Monday demanded better protection against the coronavirus, which is currently ravaging the city’s healthcare system.
"This is a story about the fight for our lives,” said one nurse.
Standing six feet from each other outside the municipal hospital, nurses accused hospital management of limiting their access to personal protective equipment, including N95 masks.
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They say that when the crisis began, they were told that masks had to be worn for an entire shift, instead of discarding them after each patient. But now they have to wear the same mask for five shifts, roughly 60 hours.
“If we are not provided with sufficient PPE, we’re going to be spreading this disease to our loved ones, to other patients and it’s going to be a vicious cycle and you’re never going to be able to control it,” said Ania Binkowska, a respiratory therapist.
The frontline workers are also asking for the full 14 days of sick time and more adequate staffing when people are sick.
And the New York State Nurses Association is demanding the Trump administration use the Defense Production Act, which has been invoked but not fully unleashed, to force companies to produce those PPEs.
“When the nurses and doctors get sick and everyone else that needs to take care of the patients gets sick, we just don’t have the manpower to take care of our patients,” said Tricia Robinson, a Harlem Hospital RN.
Mayor de Blasio Monday visited the Brooklyn Navy Yard where local companies are manufacturing tens of thousands of reusable protective hospital gowns to supply the city's health care workers.
He praised the Trump administration for sending 200,000 stockpiled N95 masks for public hospitals last week, and 600,000 are on their way for independent hospitals.
"This has definitely changed the dynamic for this week and that's a very good thing,” de Blasio said.
New York City Health and Hospitals says it has taken measures to conserve its supply of PPE during this shortage, saying, “Our dedicated nurses are working day and night to ensure that all our patients receive the individual care they need ... Every healthcare worker in our system who needs PPE is able to receive what they require.”