Bronx VA Medical Center nurses will be marking Friday, May 1—International Workers Day, also known as “May Day”—with a shift change action. This local action is part of nurse actions taking place at 139 hospitals, in 13 states, representing more than 95,540 nurses, according to National Nurses United (NNU).
Nurses will protest the denial of worker compensation claims and safety leave requests for those who have both been exposed and tested positive for COVID-19. RNs are being forced to return to work after testing positive for COVID-19, without safe and uniform policies to ensure the health and safety of RNs and veterans throughout New York City.
“Nurses signed up to care for their patients. They did not sign up to sacrifice their lives on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “On this day that celebrates the labor movement and working people, union nurses are standing up to demand the protections they need now!”
“The workers compensation program was designed to protect employees from financial hardships that are a result of work-related injuries and illnesses. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees became infected on the job and were unable to return to work until fully recovered. As a veteran, a nurse, and a COVID-19 survivor, I know that it is important that the VA not impede claims for the worker’s compensation insurance that is designed to help those of us who are on the frontlines and become ill. This will show that the organization is not only committed to the care of veteran patients, but they are also invested in facilitating the injured workers’ recovery and return to work. Many of us are veterans,” said Elton Smith, RN, NNU member, and United States Navy Veteran.
“In order to protect veteran patients and my colleagues, I went off duty when I tested positive for COVID-19. I returned to duty as soon as it was safe as per infectious disease. As a long-term employee and a veteran who is a COVID-19 survivor, it is unfortunate that rather than automatically being granted safety leave, I am currently submitting requests and waiting for the status to be determined. The VA should automatically grant appropriate leave and allow health care providers to focus exclusively on our patients,” said Ann Marie Carlin, CWOCN, NNU Member, and Navy Reserves, Nurse Corps Captain
National Nurses United registered nurse members are calling on employers and the government to provide nurses and other health care workers with the highest level of protections, including powered air-purifying respirators, and single use of N95s and coveralls that incorporate head coverings and shoe coverings, and gloves. Otherwise, hospitals will remain fomites for infection, say NNU RNs, and nurses and health care workers will continue to get sick and sidelined, die, and be unable to care for the next wave of patients.
Nurses say it’s clear that the industry thinks they have produced an acceptable solution to the PPE shortage by implementing widespread use of various N95 decontamination systems. This is unacceptable and unsafe, say nurses, who are calling on President Trump to activate the Defense Production Act to order the mass production of PPE. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must also pass an emergency temporary standard to mandate that healthcare employers provide protections needed for COVID-19, say nurses.
May Day action will take place Friday, May 1 at:
Bronx VA Medical Center
130 W Kingsbridge Road Bronx NY, 10468 (Outside gates of main entrance)
Contact: Jonathan Weitz, (646) 460-7734
National Nurses United is the largest and fastest growing union of registered nurses in the U.S. with more than 150,000 members nationwide. NNU plays a leadership role in safeguarding the health and safety of RNs and their patients and has won landmark legislation in the areas of staffing, safe patient handling, infectious disease and workplace violence prevention.