Local group fights for PPE and proper protocols for workers at VA hospital

Published: May. 22, 2020 at 11:43 PM EDT
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Members of the American Federation of Government Employees local 2779 gathered outside the Malcolm Randall VA hospital in Gainesville.

Their purpose was two-fold.

One registered nurse says the masks are not enough in quantity or quality.

"To make sure we have the proper PPE and the proper protocols in place"

RN Robin Meyers, said, "But we were only being given five a day for all the screeners and there were only 12 at a station sometimes. So they were only giving us five of the level 3's for 12 people for a day."

Meyers says a level 3 mask is one with a filter in it but only lasts up to four hours forcing them to use it longer than advised.

A member with AFGE adds that if a worker then gets sick, "That's a lot of leave if you have to leave for 14 days so they have no more leave for the year. So then if they get sick they will get AWOL'd or possibly get fired"

Workers have to use up their sick or vacation leave to self-quarantine.

Member Ruth Browne said, "What it means to me is that in the fall when this virus comes back and it probably will. We need to be ready for it and if we're not even letting anybody go home now what's going to happen in the fall when it comes back and nobody has sick time?"

The group was small but their message to management at the VA is clear.

AFGE president Muriel Newman said, "Management is held accountable for anybody who was damaged and/or hurt or is sick through this process."

Protestors also say that fighting for PPE and what they call fair paid time off now is crucial because they predict in the fall for COVID-19 to come back even worse. So without safe and fair practices now, they say the lives of employees and veterans at the hospital could be at stake in the future.