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Lack of Personal Protective Equipment and its Toll on Healthcare Workers

Since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, healthcare workers nationwide have raised complaints about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) being provided by their hospitals. Many of these complaints have been met with responses such as “you have to work anyway,” disciplinary actions for attempting to wear their own equipment, or in some cases, termination.

During this pandemic, The World Health Organization has advised healthcare workers who are treating patients with respiratory symptoms to wear a medical mask, gown, gloves and eye protection. Significantly less is often available.

In one Cook County, Illinois case, Lauri Mazurkiewicz, a nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, attempted to shed light on her hospital’s wrongdoing. In an email blast to 50 co-workers, supervisors and other hospital personnel, she stated that the standard surgical masks being provided by the hospital did not adequately protect against COVID-19. Mazurkiewicz stated an urgency for N95 masks (one of the few masks effective in protecting individuals from COVID-19 transmission), which the hospital allegedly refused to provide and prohibited their workers from wearing. The following day, she arrived for her shift in her own N95 mask. When she was ordered to remove it, she declined, and was allegedly fired the next day.

This is not the only instance where healthcare workers have lacked sufficient PPE. At Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, due to the lack of availability, doctors and nurses are reusing their N95 masks for as long as possible, even though the mask is only confirmed effective for up to eight hours. Penny Blake, a 62-year-old nurse in a southeast Florida emergency room, claims gloves, cleaning supplies and N95 masks are placed behind lock and key. Blake says, “the biggest concern we have is that we will not have enough personal protective equipment to take care of the number of patients that are coming in . . . and if we can’t protect ourselves, then we are not going to be able to be there for them.”

All over the country, healthcare workers are being denied adequate protection in their effort to care for those infected by the Coronavirus. Many are fearful for their health, their patients’ health and the health of their loved ones at home. Many others know that if they speak up, their jobs may be at risk. If you feel your job put your health is at risk or if you have been wrongfully terminated, give us a call at (215) 567-1530 or (856) 273-6679 and ask to speak with one of our employment law attorneys.

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