VA staffers sound alarm over shortages in staffing, equipment
Leo Shane III
April 3, 2020
Nurse Irma Westmoreland said the Veterans Affairs hospital where she works has already run out of paper gowns and is warning staffers to ration their use of linens out of concerns the facility may run out of protective equipment for use on a daily basis.
Members of National Nurses United protest between shifts at the Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland, Calif., on March 23, 2020. A similar protest is scheduled for next week at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Brooklyn, to raise concerns about a lack of resources for staff to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy of NNU)
The site — the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga. — has only had five confirmed cases of coronavirus so far.
“When we get a surge of cases, where will we be?” said Westmoreland, a 30-year employee at VA and vice president of National Nurses United, which represents 12,000 nurses at 23 different VA sites across the country. “I’m afraid for my co-workers and I’m afraid for my family.”
Union officials are raising concerns this week about what they see as significant deficiencies in VA readiness to respond to the coronavirus epidemic, which has already killed more than 6,000 Americans.
On Monday, NNU members from the Brooklyn VA facility in New York City are planning a between-shifts protest of conditions there, promising no disruption in care but also more public awareness of the problems staff are facing.
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