UTICA, N.Y. - The demand for PPE and better working conditions is occurring nationwide. On Wednesday, local health care workers and community members held a car rally to draw attention to the lack of PPE, especially N95 masks.
The rally was organized by front line health care workers with CWA and UFCW.
Local health care workers are calling on area hospitals to end the policy that forces health care workers to reuse equipment that they believe is not being cleaned in a safe manner.
In an effort to preserve essential PPE, MVHS has instituted a reuse and extended use policy for N95 respirators. MVHS says reusing N95 respirators is not a new practice and they are following the CDC guidelines.
Below is a statement from CWA 1126.
"Today healthcare workers and community members held a car rally to draw attention to the lack of PPE, especially N95 masks, for essential and healthcare workers. Since about April 6, MVHS has had to sterilize and reuse masks, a process which itself may have adverse health effects for workers.
"CWA has done all we can to work with MVHS to keep members informed despite sudden furloughs and no hazard pay for our healthcare heroes. Our members expressed that they did not believe MVHS’s mask reuse policy was safe, and our unions cannot allow members to be put at risk needlessly. On Sunday Governor Cuomo made it clear that no hospital should be operating under crisis conservation guidelines and that the state would send PPE if needed.
"CWA will work to maintain a safe work environment for healthcare workers. That is why we cannot allow our healthcare workers to be put at risk by allowing this unapproved mask reuse to continue. We continue to call upon the federal government to implement the National Defense Production Act to make the PPE our healthcare heroes need in the United States."
Below is a statement from Caitlin McCann, vice president of marketing and communications for Mohawk Valley Health System:
“These are certainly unprecedented times for communities and our health systems throughout the country and the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the capacity, the equipment and the personnel of the healthcare system in New York State and across the nation.
In an effort to preserve essential PPE, we have instituted a reuse and extended use policy for select PPE, including the small size of N95 respirators. The protocols we use for reuse and extended use are guided by CDC reuse guidelines. Prior to this pandemic, we had been fortunate enough that we had enough supplies to use an N95 respirator just once and then dispose of it. Now, we are in an unprecedented time, facing a new virus, and there are shortages of items, including the small size N95s masks, which is what is worn by more than two-thirds of MVHS employees and physicians. The good news is that reusing N95 respirators is not a new practice – CDC had guidelines about this for years. In fact, it’s been a practice that has been used when caring for patients with tuberculosis.
As recently as this week, we again calculated our “burn rate” or usage rate of small size N95s to verify it was still necessary to sanitize and reuse the N95s. We found that prior to instituting this policy, we were using 426 small size N95 respirators a day, which were then discarded. After the reuse policy took effect, that rate dropped to 83 small masks a day. This means that without the reuse policy we would be days away from running out.
It’s important to note that we are talking about small size N95 respirator masks. These type of PPE must be “fit tested” for each individual, ensuring that the mask is properly sealed for the most effective protection.
We have been unable to get more small N95s through the New York State Coordinating Council and have been very limited with what we’ve been able to get through other avenues. It is vital to preserve our supply so that we do not run out of N95 respirators which are keeping our staff safe.
It is unfortunate that at this time, when communities and nations are coming together to support one another, there are those who refuse to work collaboratively to approach a problem that is bigger than any healthcare organization. It is our hope that we can all work together in the future to best manage our supplies and keep our staff safe.”