Statement on Coronavirus & PPE shortages for Florida Healthcare Workers from 1199SEIU Acting EVP Dale Ewart

March 21, 2020

Media contact:
Ed Gilhuly

Statement on PPE shortages for Florida healthcare workers from Dale Ewart, Acting Executive Vice President and Florida Regional Director for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East:

“Our nurses and other healthcare staff in hospitals and nursing homes having been working tirelessly on the front lines of public health to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and to protect the well-being of Floridians. But these committed caregivers are afraid and upset that their safety is not being adequately addressed, especially when it comes to the growing shortages of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Even at this early stage of what is expected to be a lengthy public health emergency, we are approaching a crisis point in these shortages.  Caregivers, hospitals and nursing homes did not create this situation, and they need the state and federal government to deliver solutions and support. If we want to turn back this grave challenge, we need the federal government to act now. This would include decisive moves such as releasing all strategic reserves of these items, converting factories to the production of PPE supplies, and more.

“If healthcare workers begin getting sick in large numbers because of lack of protection, the whole system to care for the public can collapse.  We’re all in this together and we especially need government at all levels to step in and step up swiftly to lead and avert such a crisis.

“The shortage of masks and respirators is similar to the early problems with lack of testing, which could only be resolved by federal government action.  We face a similar crisis in the near future over the anticipated shortage of ventilators.  Again, hospitals can’t solve these problems on their own.

“Of course, there are other very important concerns for healthcare workers, as well.  They must be provided adequate paid sick time, especially if they become ill on the job.  Childcare accommodations must be made for those workers with children.  And nursing home staff must be treated with particular attention. Already among the lowest paid with limited health benefits and sick time, they face severe challenges.  This places their elderly patients – who are at most risk to the virus – at even greater peril.

“The fight against COVID-19 has highlighted the great need for access to affordable, quality health care, and for all workers to have sufficient paid sick time, health insurance and other essential benefits.  Unfortunately, it also clearly exposed the lack of preparedness and the slow federal response to the dangers of coronavirus that allowed it to blow up into this deep crisis. But if correct and comprehensive steps are taken right now, we can reverse this grave threat to our workers, families, communities and entire country.” 

1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest healthcare union in the country representing more than 450,000 nurses and healthcare workers nationwide, including more than 24,000 in Florida. Our nurses, certified nursing assistants and other healthcare workers care for Florida families in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities throughout the state.