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UCI Nurses Hold Candlelight Vigil And Demand Access To Protective Gear Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

The California Nurses Association organized a candlelight vigil outside of UCI Medical Center’s Douglas Hospital on April 20.  The event was organized to show support to all who have tested positive for COVID-19, including the nurses and staff in the hospital. 

In addition to the vigil, the nurses wanted to raise awareness over the lack of protection in their work environment. 

“The nurses have been demanding for appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) since the COVID-19 pandemic started. In order for us to have maximum protection when caring for COVID-19 patients, we need to have a face shield or goggles, an N95 mask, gown and gloves,” a UCI nurse, who requested to remain anonymous, said.

According to the nurse, the hospital is reserving N95 masks for special procedures and issuing regular surgical masks to the hospital staff. Hospital staff started to get sick after these safety procedures were made. 

“That’s why my fellow coworkers who spoke up during the vigil expressed their frustrations and continued to demand for the right mask to use. The hospital is not out of N95 masks. They are restricting its access and use to the point that hospital staff are being harassed when we ask for or use N95 masks,” the nurse said.

“UCI Health is committed to providing a safe environment for caregivers and patients during this extraordinary and unprecedented international health crisis,” Public Information Officer to the UCI Medical Care Center John Murray said. “That commitment includes providing every health care worker with access to and extensive guidance and training for the appropriate use of personal protective equipment. The greatest assets in this fight are our caregivers and our top priority is to protect and minimize the likelihood of disease transmission.”

Murray said that UCI Health has adopted a new conservation effort in protocols that are consistent with the CDC recommendations. 

“This broad conservation effort includes keeping PPE secure so they are available for health care workers who need it, reducing the number of non-urgent surgery and clinic visits, monitoring usage hourly and collecting unused PPE supplies from UC campuses, including from colleagues in research labs,” Murray said. 

Esme Park is a Contributing Writer. She can be reached at esmep@uci.edu