It's a call that's not new but still necessary because hospitals are still ignoring the need for a stockpiled supply of Personal Protective Equipment for their staff, said a group of health care workers rallying outside Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside on Tuesday.
The small demonstration was one of about a dozen rallies being held across California to urge support for Senate Bill 275, the Health Care and Essential Workers Protection Act, which would demand health care employers and the state to have a 90-day stockpile of PPE. It would also ensure at least 25% of all of the PPE needed across the state be manufactured in California.
"It's important because we depend on our frontline workers to take care of us and make sure we all survive this pandemic," said Mali Woods-Drake, a union representative for SCIU United Health Care Workers.
Woods-Drake said that Tri-City has done a great job to provide their health care workers with the necessary PPE to keep them safe during the pandemic. But other hospitals across the state are not doing the same and 14 SCIU-UHW members have died from COVID-19.
"When they’re put at risk and they’re losing their lives then we're not doing our part to make sure that they are safe while they are doing that for us," she said.
In a statement, Tri-City Medical Center said they were "pleased to have been identified by SEIU-UHW as one of the better employers in ensuring frontline workers have access to PPE" and hopes to continue to collaborate with the union.
"Tri-City Medical Center has worked tirelessly to appropriately safeguard our patients, community partners and frontline healthcare workers, including employees and medical staff with Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so," the rest of the statement read.
Tri-City hospital worker Sarahi Sandoval said that the reason for their stable levels of PPE was due to community donations and not because hospitals were prepared.
"If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have had anything. No masks, goggles, so I really appreciate the community coming out to support us but we need more from our hospitals that way we have a stockpile and we don’t have to rely on community," Sandoval said.
Woods-Drake blames the lack of PPE on conflicting information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the start of the pandemic, when there was a shortage of protective supplies.
The CDC released guidelines for PPE in March that would "optimize" their supply in the shortage by limiting which health care workers should utilize the protective equipment and by asking hospitals to reuse face masks. The move was criticized by health care workers who said enough wasn't being done to ensure their safety as they treated patients with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, to secure the billions of PPE necessary in California, state officials reached out worldwide and worked with local manufactures to ramp up production.
Months later, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he's increasing the state's stockpile through a "stable supply chain" that would be able to increase the state's supply to 100 million N-95 respirator masks and 200 million surgical masks by early fall. He also announced in June a partnership with California manufacturers that would allow health care providers to directly obtain PPE.
SB 275, introduced by Democratic Sens. Dr. Richard Pan and Connie Leyva, needs to pass both the Senate and House. If approved, the bill could go into effect in Jan. 2021.