Hi everybody, this is Danny Ramirez, RN, SEIU 1199NW member. I’m a nurse at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Wash., which as you know is an epicenter for COVID-19. On any given day, I would normally be working in neurosurgery, but due to this virus, we’ve cancelled all elective surgeries and are now being floated to the front lines — to the ER, the ICUs and medical surgical units.
After hearing about a patient at a Kirkland nursing home just 20 minutes away who tested positive for COVID-19, it was a very scary moment in the Pacific Northwest. Other patients in the nursing home in the age range of 60–70 started showing signs of the same symptoms.
As nurses, we started hearing about the coronavirus risks on January 19 at the bargaining table. We started to voice our concerns at that moment — it was clear the virus had now infected a lot of people in China and was spreading in Italy.
With our governor‘s announcement, anxiety started to develop within our community. But it didn’t surface in the White House until mid March when Seattle nurses had been dealing with it for more than a month already.
Several stories surfaced about co-workers' significant others testing positive. But when they asked management if they should come to work, they were told yes! …even though they had the potential to expose patients and other staff members. It’s very upsetting that management didn’t take the warnings seriously and put the health of frontline healthcare workers first.
For pandemics like these, there should have been a policy in place to protect all personnel from the virus, especially for our co-workers in their 60s and 70s. There should have been a procedure in place for staff who report exposures to be removed from the workplace with full pay and no retaliation during the social distancing period.
Patient safety will always be our priority. That's why I'm so glad we're coming together, bringing these issues to the surface, and recommending solutions. It’s with pride that I get to work with outstanding members of our union to stand in solidarity to advocate for patients and community.
But we need your help now. Demand that the Trump administration act to ensure healthcare workers have the personal protective equipment we need to ensure the safety of all healthcare workers and patients.