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Local healthcare workers protest over workplace protections amid pandemic

Healthcare workers at Desert Regional Medical Center held a protest today over workplace protections during the pandemic.

"We have a list of healthcare workers who died who have died within COVID crisis and we want to make sure this doesn't happen anymore," said Gisella Thomas, a respiratory therapist.

Workers joined others from Tenet Health Care hospitals up and down the state of California. Tenet Health Care is the parent company of three nearby hospitals: DRMC in Palm Springs, JFK Memorial in Indio, and Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree.

Employees say they want more personal protective gear, staffing, and better policies.

Todd Burke, a spokesperson for Tenet Health, released a statement in response to some of the concerns workers have.

He wrote:

The SEIU-UHW, the labor union that represents our service, maintenance and certain technical and professional employees, is holding an informational picketing event today outside Desert Regional Medical Center as well as other hospitals throughout California.

The hospital is fully operational and our staff's focus, as always, is on providing exceptional quality patient care.

While we value all of our employees who are represented by the SEIU-UHW, we are disappointed that the union is taking this approach. We have only been bargaining with the union on a successor contract since May and will continue to negotiate in good faith in hopes of reaching a successful resolution.

We are proud of the professionalism and dedication demonstrated by our caregivers and staff during this unprecedented pandemic."

Do you have adequate nursing staff to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic? It's important to note that the SEIU-UHW does not represent the Registered Nurses at our hospital.

While the demands of COVID-19 have strained California's healthcare workforce, we remain committed to caring for our community during the pandemic. Following Governor Gavin Newsom's Proclamation of a State Emergency, our hospital has joined a long list of California hospitals that have received a temporary staffing waiver during this pandemic, due to our surge in COVID patients. The waiver allows hospitals to move nursing staff where they're most needed at any given moment. The safety of our patients and staff remains a top priority, and we will continue to work with our staffing agency to bring additional traveler nurses onboard in the near future.

Do you have adequate PPE to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic?

We can safely care for our patients with the supplies we currently have. Our team is actively sourcing around the world for additional supplies. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our patients and staff.

How are you protecting patients and workers during the pandemic?

Every patient who enters the hospital is screened for fever and other signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Employees complete a COVID-19-related screening questionnaire every day when they come to work and, along with physicians and vendors, have their temperature checked when they enter or reenter our hospital. We also follow strict hand sanitization protocols.

Are all workers at your hospital given PPE?

Yes. Any employee, physician or vendor entering the hospital is required to wear a face mask. To prevent potential exposure, all physicians, nurses and staff who care for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are required to wear the appropriate PPE including N95 face masks and face shields or goggles. Employees are provided a new N95 or face mask with each shift.

Health care workers held a similar protest earlier this month outside of Desert Regional.

This earlier protest was put together by the California Nurses Association, the labor union that represents local Registered Nurses as opposed to Thursday's, which was put together by the SEIU-UHW, which represents service, maintenance, and certain technical and professional employees.

KESQ News Team

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