Health care workers protest outside UNM Hospital, demand better working conditions and PPE | KOB 4

Health care workers protest outside UNM Hospital, demand better working conditions and PPE

Megan Abundis
Updated: April 15, 2020 04:59 PM
Created: April 14, 2020 09:48 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The demand for PPE and better working conditions is occurring nationwide and New Mexico health care workers are joining the fight.

Hospital staff protested outside UNM Hospital on Lomas Wednesday morning.

“We have been raising the alarm of working conditions at UNMH specifically for about six weeks now,” said Eleanor Chavez, executive director of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, District 1199NM.

Chavez represents the fight for more than 4,000 health care workers at UNMH. She says they’ve tried to negotiate over the impact of COVID-19 on hospital workers.

Demands include adequate PPE for workers, hazard pay, and administrative leave for workers who have been quarantined due to exposure or illness from coronavirus.

“We don’t want to die at work, we expect to have the kinds of protection necessary to safely care for our patients and to safely do our jobs,” she said.

The protest happened during a hospital shift change from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

Wednesday’s protest is part of a national protest that’s happening across the country to bring attention to what advocates call a broken healthcare system.

“Kate Becker the CEO of the hospital really had turned a deaf ear to the concerns of the workers,” Chavez said.

UNMH sent the following statement:

"The University of New Mexico Hospital is working diligently to ensure our health care workforce is protected and supported. Our multidisciplinary PPE committee constantly reviews best practices, guidance from other institutions around the country and world, and materials from the CDC and other agencies. 

We have implemented a robust, multi-pronged approach to distribution of PPE, including how to decontaminate and reuse PPE where appropriate, to be sure we have an adequate supply.  We are not in a unique situation, this same work is happening around the country to ensure critical supplies do not run out.

We provide daily updates to all UNMH employees on PPE supply status and are constantly improving and revisiting our guidance and procedures. We will continue to make decisions to protect the health and safety of all of our employees.

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."

The American Federation of Government employees is also planning to fight for medical staff.

“We want to highlight workplace safety at the VA, and we want to bring attention to the personal protective equipment, the PPE, that is out there," said Jackie Cooper, executive vice president of AFGE Local 2063. "We want to bring attention to employees that could and eligible to telework from home. Some are getting to and some are not.”

The rally at the VA in Albuquerque is expected to take place toward the end of April.

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