SANTA MONICA (CBSLA) — Nurses and their supporters rallied in front of Providence St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica Friday to support colleagues who had been suspended for speaking out about the lack of personal protective equipment while caring for COVID-19 patients.
The protesters carried signs that read, “Shame on St. John’s,” “Bring our RNs Back,” and “Fallen Heroes,” which included the names of nurses.
One nurse spoke to the protesters via a video call from her home.
“I believe that I contracted COVID while I was at work because I did not have enough protection,” Angela Gatdula said.
The protesters said several nurses have gone home sick, and that doesn’t include the 10 nurses who were suspended for refusing to treat COVID-19 patients without the proper protective gear.
“We feared for our safety, so we told them we wouldn’t go back into those rooms unless we had an N95 respirator,” one nurse said.
Providence St. John’s said it was working on getting new equipment and finding ways to properly clean the N95 masks they already have.
And it’s not just nurses at St. John’s, but nurses across Los Angeles County ringing the alarm on the lack of personal protective equipment.
“We’re limited to one mask a day and I feel like that’s a problem,” a nurse at a Kaiser hospital in Los Angeles said.
The nurse, who did not want to be identified, screens patients entering the hospital for COVID-19, but she was the one who ended up contracting the disease.
“I put a bottle of bleach up to my nose and I couldn’t even smell that so that’s when I knew it was a serious problem and that’s what made me want to get tested,” she said.
And that nurse is not alone. In Los Angeles County, the number of health care workers diagnosed with the illness has doubled over the past week.
“We are reporting an additional 654 confirmed cases among health care workers who tested positive for COVID-19,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County public health director, said.
In the county, there are now 1,441 cases among health care workers — 38% of them nurses and 6% physicians.
Five health care workers have died in Los Angeles County, most of them nurses.
CBS Los Angeles spoke with multiple hospitals with many saying they were still working on purchasing more protective gear.