Cover Image: Striking Nurses at Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, NY
By Nélida Tello
Frontline nurses and community members rallied outside of the Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, New York on Saturday, demanding appropriate and sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The outbreak has further overwhelmed an already ill-equipped and insufficient healthcare system where working conditions have only worsened, nurses face PPE shortages, and hospitals continue to overcrowd.
Toni, a first year nurse, shared that the day before the rally she had been given one gown to wear for the entire day. “We’re also a level one trauma center, you’re supposed to gown up for every single thing that comes in. So now you’re telling me that if I get a gunshot wound covered in blood, what am I going to do now? When my gown is filthy.”
Nurses were instructed by supervisors that they would not only have to wear one gown per shift, but also could only use one N95 mask per week. Nurses have been provided with incorrectly sized masks, rendering them useless. The shortage has been so severe that nurses are forced to sign for PPE from the nursing office.
Before the outbreak, Jacobi Medical Center regularly dealt with an overcrowded emergency room and often treated patients in the hallways. As the outbreak intensified, the hospital has now implemented a policy of placing multiple patients into rooms regardless of whether they test positive for COVID-19. Michelle Shaw, a medical surgery telemetry unit nurse, condemned the hospital for not using the entire building and instead crowding patients. Shaw stated that the hospital’s policies are “what is having our New York City numbers [of COVID-19 cases] sky rocket.”
Without proper PPE, nurses risk their health and life every day at work. Nurses expressed fear and indignation towards the deteriorating working conditions at Jacobi Medical Center. Regardless of whether they receive PPE or not, the nurses will continue to work, as they are forced the bear the brunt of the risk caused by the inept and deteriorating US healthcare system.