Health care workers take part in National Day of Action

Nurses, respiratory therapists, lab workers and other health care workers in the Bay Area are taking part in a National Day of Action organized by their unions, to protest what they say is a lack of government action to protect people against Covid-19.

About 30 to 40 health care workers gathered outside the Kaiser Medical Center in South San Francisco to voice their concerns. The Kaiser medical center is one of 16 locations in the Bay Area where similar rallies and "informational picket lines" were held. They're calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the Heroes Act, which, among other things, would allow the U.S. to manufacture its own Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, by utilizing the Defense Production Act.

One of the Kaiser Nurses at the South San Francisco medical center, shared her concerns about a proposal to have nurses reuse their hospital-issued N95 masks.

"Just recently we found out that some hospitals implemented a five by seven rule: A nurse is given five disposable N95 masks a month, to reuse every seven days," said Kaiser nurse, Eunice Balacio. "These masks are designed to be disposable, one-time use only. Will they wait for us to contract the virus and bring it to our families and our communities?"

Balacio expressed her frustration with the federal government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic: "The PPE shortage should be addressed at the national level."

"We feel like we're not being protected," said Isela Magana, a nurse at Kaiser in Fremont. "We feel like we don't have enough PPE. Every day we put our lives on the line to protect our patients."

In response, Kaiser said in a statement to KTVU: "We have had the appropriate PPE to protect our teams today and have stabilized our supply chain for the potential of future surges in this pandemic. We could not have achieved this without the diligent work of our staff to follow PPE protocols and conservation efforts..."

The statement went on to say, "Our infectious disease experts and clinical leaders have ensured our policies and procedures meet occupational safety and health regulations... We understand this is a stressful time balancing the extraordinary responsibilities of caring for patients in this pandemic with the equally important responsibilities at home."

Health care workers at the rallies today also want Congress to extend the $600-a-week Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefit. So far, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and Trump Administration officials have failed to reach an agreement on an extension of the program that expired July 31.

Health care workers said they have seen first-hand the economic toll the Covid-19 pandemic has taken among their patients and families.

The rallies at Kaiser Medical in South San Francisco and in Kaiser in Fremont were among events scheduled at 16 different medical facilities in the Bay Area, at both Kaiser and Sutter hospitals.