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Nurses Sound Alarm on LA County Department of Health Services’ Refusal to Release Stockpile of N95 Masks Needed to Protect Medical Personnel

Nurses File Complaint with Cal/OSHA and Warn LA County’s Hoarding of Masks and Failure to Provide Frontline Workers with Critical Equipment Risks Public Health and All but Guarantees Spread of COVID-19 Among Patients and Hospital Staff

LA County frontline healthcare workers represented by SEIU 721 are sounding the alarm and alerting the public about the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ refusal to release necessary protective equipment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Registered Nurses across LA County are being asked to reuse masks and are being denied access to N95 respirators, which are mandated by the state’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard for airborne infectious diseases like the novel Coronavirus.

SEIU 721 has met with County health officials on multiple occasions where they have claimed to have amassed a stockpile of the N95s. Yet, despite these claims, officials have refused to release the masks to ensure frontline healthcare workers can protect themselves, other medical personnel and other patients.

It is our union’s position that much is still unclear about this virus and that the LA County DHS should err on the side of caution when it comes to ensuring that the critical workforce of nurses is protected so they can stay healthy and be able to tend to thousands of patients in the weeks to come when the public will need nurses more than ever.

“It is utterly disappointing that LA County would put frontline healthcare workers like myself in this kind of danger when it’s precisely in times like these that we desperately need all medical staff in top condition,” said Cynthia Mitchel, a Supervising Registered Nurse at LAC+USC. “We’re experiencing a worldwide health crisis like we’ve never seen before and instead of being proactive, the County is setting us up to become super spreaders while the Coronavirus is brewing in our hospitals.”

In light of the County’s refusal to comply with the ATD standard, SEIU 721 has filed a complaint on behalf of the County healthcare workers it represents with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) with demands that the County immediately investigate the imminent hazard to health and safety of workers and the community.

Our union has also made a clear demand for the County to cease and desist from assigning suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases to our members unless or until the County can provide proper personal protective equipment that complies with the ATD standard, including N95 respirators.  Until the County provides proper personal protective equipment, individual healthcare professionals may choose to refuse unsafe work assignments.

Cal/OSHA has the authority to enforce these protections at LA County hospitals.  Nurses and healthcare workers across LA County – the largest county in the United States of America with a population larger than 41 states in the union – are asking Cal/OSHA to investigate the uånion’s complaint and enforce the ATD standard.  Cal/OSHA’s action is critical to ensure that healthcare workers are provided with proper protective equipment to provide safe patient care and prevent further spread of the virus.

According to a study published in The Lancet, 20 percent of Italian healthcare workers on the front lines of the outbreak became infected. In China, more than 3,350 healthcare workers were infected.

“The County is saying they will release the masks later but that’s like trying to conserve water when a fire needs to be put out and at LA County we already see the smoke,” Mitchel said. “If we use the N95 masks we have now, we won’t need as many down the line. The County’s logic doesn’t make sense and their decision to keep a stockpile of N95s in a closet somewhere instead of on the faces of the nurses who urgently need them is putting our entire community at risk.”

SEIU 721 is also documenting reports from members about a lack of proper training, protocols and other protective equipment such as gloves, surgical masks and gowns. We demand that the County reconsider its position on personal protective equipment and partner with us to find solutions to protect the health and safety of healthcare professionals and the public during this critical time.

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Beatriz
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Beatriz

The front line need the mask more than ever. Thanks for being our advocate

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Great job Union. We’re experiencing that too in Rancho los amigos. Lack of masks and disinfecting supplies.

Leila Nassergani
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Leila Nassergani

I am 59 years old , going to work next week, in fear , for my health , in disbelief that in our rich country, civilized country with the best innovative approach to medical care , the government does not want to act fast to protect first responders. I work in emergency department, my two daughters work in icu department
I thank the union for continuous pressure.
It’s idiotic to assume that it’s ok to use a regular mask, in close setting, they go against infectious control measures dealing with airborne/droplet precautions.

Antony
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Antony

This is sickening and very frustrating to say the least! What will happen when the nurses and the doctors get sick and grounded? How will they deal with the crisis?! We can’t continue to act like it’s business as usual as that would be like courting a black mamba, inviting the snake to bed hoping that it will not bite when you lay on it! You can rest assured that this is a recipe for disaster. It’s time for these so called leaders to lead from the front lines, come to the floor and demonstrate, show us how to attend… Read more »

Jimise Phillips
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Jimise Phillips

Thank you SEIU for your support and addressing the concerns of those of us on the front line!

Ife Ajibola
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Ife Ajibola

Honestly it is sad to see health care professionals treated this way and expected to put themselves at risk for the sake of doing their jobs. We must all protect ourselves and protect the patients properly for the sake of reducing the spread of this virus!

RN from Rancho
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RN from Rancho

We were told to use 1 surgical mask per day

Bing Fong
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Bing Fong

I had to work on 3/15 for 12 hrs without a N95 rated, orange-colored respirator/face mask (used for respiratory isolation rooms). There simply wasn’t any available. I felt very vulnerable working under that particular condition.

Anna Emedom
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Anna Emedom

I love SEIU 721. Thank God for using this union to speak for us. I am personally grateful.

Ira Kwatcher
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Ira Kwatcher

Apparantly kaiser nurses have been warned if they wear amask while on the job, except in certain lomited circumstances, they will be fired on the spot. Apparantly as a result of a recent CDC opinion saying there is insufficient data to support the proposition that the virus is an established pathogen dangerous to life.
And the EMPEROR HAS NEW CLOTHES, and it matters not that he runs naked through the town as we are tasked with imagining his new wardrobe eventhough it be invisible to all.
Beware the jabberwok….

jackie l
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jackie l

Everyone is helping out not just the RN’s..
RT’s, Emts, Radiology, CNA’s, NA’ s ,LVN’s, Doctor’s, ER Doctor’s Housekeeper’s, Unit Secretary, NP, PA

jackie l
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jackie l

RN’s are not the only ones working
we have LVN’s CMA, NA, RT, Janitors, PA
NP, Clerks

Todd
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Todd

Of course it makes sense if you are a democrat state government trying to make the current President look bad. Good luck living in Corrupt Cali.

Frontline Registered Nurse
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Frontline Registered Nurse

Frontline workers exposed to COVID-19 are instructed that the use a surgical mask is adequate. It’s a fact that when we breath, talk, sing, cough or sneeze pathogens, such as this novel COVID-19, can be aerosolized. If frontline staff are performing tasks/duties where they are exposed to aerosolized COVID-19, the employer must provide all proper PPE to protect the staff from the exposure. Frontline workers need to be protected to help contain the spread of this virus. We don’t want them to become super spreaders in our worksites or communities. This is a novel respiratory virus and there are too… Read more »

FRONTLINE TEAM
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FRONTLINE TEAM

ALL FRONT LINE EMPLOYEES NEED PROTECTION!! ALL WHO MUST COME IN CONTACT WITH PATIENTS TO PROVIDE ESSENTIAL CARE!. DOCTORS, NURSES, RESPIRATORY THERAPISTS, RAD TECHS, LAB TECHS, WE ARE THE DIAGNOSTIC TEAM, WE ARE THE PATIENT CARE TEAM. WE NEED PROTECTION!! INVEST IN OUR HEALTH AND SAFETY SO WE CAN BE EMPOWERED TO PERFORM OUR BEST ABILITIES AT FULL CAPACITY, TO PROVIDE SPECIALTY CARE TO THE COMMUNITY, TO PREVENT, DETECT AND RESPOND TO THE PANDEMIC WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF ADDING TO IT! WE DO NOT WANT TO BE A PATIENT! WE WANT TO CARE FOR OUR PATIENTS!! WE ARE THE BACKBONE… Read more »