LA JOLLA, Calif. — Health care workers rallied Friday outside the San Diego VA Medical Center, arguing the lack of personal protective gear provided by the hospital makes them feel unsafe as they treat coronavirus patients.
Nurses at the midday rally told FOX 5 the center isn’t doing nearly enough to keep them safe at work. They claim necessary items such as N95 masks, gloves, gowns and other gear — also known as PPE — are being rationed and kept under lock and key.
Some nurses also say they’re not always being notified when exposed to COVID-19 patients and staff.
“I do believe they’ve been rationed,” VA nurse Marie Jamito said. “I work on the COVID unit myself. If it were easy to get an N95 respirator then I imagine all of my colleagues would have one by now.”
The nurses’ union, National Nurses United, is demanding the San Diego VA provide staff with sufficient PPE.
The director of the San Diego VA medical system, Dr. Robert Smith, said early in the coronavirus outbreak, all hospitals had “major concerns” about N95 mask availability and other PPE. Now, he says the local VA has “gotten past those things” and that there’s no longer a need for rationing.
“I’m confident that our systems are strong,” Smith said, “but if there’s opportunities for us to make them better and make our nursing staff more comfortable and safe, we want to do those things, too.”