Several hundred nurses gathered in protest outside the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, on July 29, calling for better protection in their front-line fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The nurses say staffing in the medical center has been decreased and protective supplies are insufficient, creating unsafe conditions for both the staff and patients of the hospital.
The rally took place shortly after noon within a hundred yards of the entrance to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center near the University of California’s Westwood campus. Many health care workers wore red T-shirts and held signs printed by the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses United union, citing the need for safer working conditions and improved staffing measures.
Nurse Emily Carrera told The Epoch Times that the protesters want administrators at the medical center “to do their part” and work together with them to ensure safe working conditions at the facility.
“If staff rates get cut, things get unsafe. … We put our lives on the line,” Carrera said. “We want to work with them as a team.”
Testing for COVID-19 has become a significant issue for nurses and workers at UCLA Medical Center, according to Carrera. “You have to have symptoms of the virus to get tested at our hospital,” she said.
If an employee is asymptomatic, they have to get tested elsewhere, Carrera said.
“We have to go to L.A. County health care facilities and ask for a test,” she said. “We have had nurses here who tested positive with COVID-19, and once they are back at work it gets really unnerving.”
Jason Rabinowitz, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 2010, told The Epoch Times that his union, which represents state employees in higher education, supported the gathering to call attention to recent layoffs.
“The UC [University of California] system has billions of dollars in resources and should use that before laying people off,” Rabinowitz said.
The UCLA Westwood Medical Center had not replied to requests for comment by The Epoch Times prior to publication.
Nurse David Yamada spoke at the event. He called on the UCLA Medical Center to put patient needs before profits. Providing high quality care is not accomplished by cutting back on staffing at the hospital, he said.
Yamada told The Epoch Times that he is concerned for his team’s safety—especially regarding the hospital’s policy on the reuse of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)—and said the staff is seeing “unsafe and unhealthy practices with our PPE.”
“UCLA [Medical Center] currently decontaminates our N95 Respirator masks and expects nurses to reuse these masks to care for COVID-19 patients. To date there is no conclusive evidence that this practice is safe, and nurses should not be expected to reuse their masks until we have conclusive scientific data which shows this is a healthy option for nurses and patients,” Yamada said.
The lunchtime protest lasted about an hour, and took place amid growing frustration by health care workers across Southern California as COVID-19 cases surge throughout the state. An earlier protest by registered nurses was scheduled to take place across town at the PIH Health-Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, also calling attention to inadequate staffing, poor nurse-to-patient ratios, and lack of protective equipment.
Despite his concerns, Yamada acknowledges that the UCLA Medical Center is one of the best hospital facilities in the nation.
“UCLA is number four in the nation, according to U.S. News and World [Report’s] best hospitals ranking,” Yamada said. “I am proud to be working at UCLA.”