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UNMH COVID-19 nurses start petition demanding hazard pay, financial assurances of safety

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— While a shortage of personal protective equipment in hospitals has been occurring nationwide, three major players in New Mexico—Lovelace, Presbyterian, and UNM Hospital—said they have enough PPE to meet their current needs and are cautiously and strategically using the equipment.

The three health care organizations sent KOB 4 the following statements about PPE in their facilities:

Lovelace

Lovelace Health System has supplies of protective personal equipment (PPE) to meet current needs. Latest Albuquerque News We continue to monitor these supplies across our system, and company, to ensure appropriate allocation to meet the needs of our team members and patients

Presbyterian 

We are continuously evaluating our PPE levels to ensure that we are able to protect our workforce and patients from the spread of COIVD-19. We believe that through N95 conservation efforts by our team and anticipated incoming supplies, we will be able to the meet the needs of our community should a surge in patient volumes occur.

UNMH

“University of New Mexico Health has a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment at this time.  We continuously monitor our supply, as well as all available alternatives to augmenting our supply, including supplies provided from the Strategic National Stockpile.  Our teams are working to ensure we continue to have adequate supplies for the protection of our patients and staff.”



Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office agrees and said while the supply is stable, they’re still aggressively pursuing PPE from both the federal government and private suppliers. 

A nurse at UNM Hospital said they receive one N95 mask a day. He said while the hospital is doing their best to conserve all the resources, he believes there should be financial recognition for the people on the front lines fighting COVID-19 that put themselves at an increased risk.

“I love being a nurse and it’s scary but I’m glad to be able to care for the community during this unsettling time,” said Hunter Marshall, RN, UNM Hospital. 

Hunter Marshall is an RN at UNM hospital working on the newly named COVID-19 intensive care unit. He describes some of his duties. 

“Managing their ventilation or breathing tubes,” he said. “Making sure the medications they need are being given and monitoring them very, very closely.”

He said while he’s proud to be doing the work, more could be done to protect those who work there. 

“We are asking the hospital to protect us while we do our best to protect and care for our patients,” he said. “What that looks like for us is if we do get sick, the hospital guarantees that they will cover the entirety of our care—independent of health insurance. We are asking for hazard pay some of us don’t want to come home to our families at this time and possibly expose them and look for elsewhere to stay. Additional pay would help supplement that.”

A group at the hospital started a petition with more than 100 signatures. It was handed to the hospital CEO Monday. 

“As healthcare providers we are nervous and scared the type of protective equipment we have and are accustomed to we don’t have right now,” he said. “Most of us, many of us are going to continue to work in spite of that but we ask that you please protect us so we can keep caring for you with more peace of mind and confidence that we will be looked after.”

Included in the petition is a demand of transparency regarding the supply of PPE UNM Hospital has, and hazard pay at a rate of no less than double the baseline wage.

UNM Hospitals CEO Kate Becker sent KOB 4 the following statement about the petition:

“The world is facing an unprecedented situation with COVID-19. We are in unfamiliar territory, but there are some familiar touchstones we can rely on. For decades, we have regularly drilled and prepared for disasters, including pandemic disasters. We have plans, policies and procedures in place that we can turn to in this situation. We can use those plans, updated with today’s best science and knowledge, to prepare to fight this pandemic. Throughout, the safety of our more than 7,000 employees is our priority. 

 As part of the state’s only academic medical center, The University of New Mexico Hospital has always cared for those in our state with the most acute illnesses, including rare, easily communicable and deadly diseases. Our highly trained physicians and staff have deep experience in providing this care. Press Release Distribution Service COVID-19 is new, and we are all continuously evaluating new knowledge and information in caring for COVID-19 patients, but we can draw on the expertise, policies and procedures developed over many years of caring for complex patients to assure we are providing the best care possible. 

 Our human resources policies, including our comprehensive health care coverage and our extensive sick leave policies, remain in place. We recognize and appreciate the dedication of our staff, and are proud of the excellent work of our infection prevention and control staff and our occupational health staff in making sure we have the most up to date guidance to help keep us all safe. 

 We have a tried and tested pandemic influenza plan. This plan has led us through H1N1 and Ebola and has put us on a solid foundation to respond to COVID-19. We also have expert infectious disease physicians who are reviewing the data and guidance from the CDC, the NM Department of Health and our colleagues around the world who have already learned from patient surges. We also know that we are a few weeks behind other cities who have experienced surges already. Instead of just planning in a bubble, we have reached out to learn from those colleagues in New York and Louisiana.

 One of the top things we heard was if they could go back in time, they would be more thoughtful to protect their precious PPE stockpile. We have taken this to heart. A PPE committee was formed with broad representation to provide guidance on usage and new policies. They are taking national guidance, information being published from those who experienced the surge and other relevant information to draft policies. We are also decontaminating and reprocessing certain items of PPE as appropriate. We do this to make sure our currently adequate supply of PPE continues to be sufficient to keep our staff safe. 

 We continue to stress social distancing in the hospital and outside of work. Washing your hands, keeping surfaces clean, not touching your face, this is the same guidance we have given the public and it’s important for our healthcare workers to also follow this guidance.

 We don’t know how long this situation will last, or how truly bad it will get. Here is what we know for sure, we will get through this, and the more we work together, the safer and more prepared we will all be.”

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