Local 2507 takes on the feds regarding coronavirus safety measures

Spectrum News NY1


Health Care Workers Battling Coronavirus Voice Concern Over Safety

By Kristen Shaughnessy New York City
PUBLISHED 10:53 PM ET Mar. 11, 2020

Those on the front lines of the new coronavirus crisis say it’s all about prevention, precaution, and preparation, without the panic.

Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez is a nurse at Montefiore Medical Center Nurse and the NYS Nurse’s Association President.

“I have taken care of tuberculosis patients for 40 years. I have never gotten tuberculosis. Why is that? I had the right equipment, I had the right rooms, I had the right information,” Sheridan-Gonzalez told NY1.

The State Nurses Association says it is worried about a shortage of equipment, as the number of coronavirus cases climbs. Specifically, they’re worried about acquiring the sophisticated respirators that protect workers from airborne contaminants.

Lisa Baum is the union’s occupational health and safety representative.

“The Centers for Disease Control announced yesterday they are lowering the guidelines for protection of health care workers and they were equating surgical masks with respirators like the N95. The science does not support this,” Baum said.

Nurses and EMS workers say they also need the proper information. After the September 11 attacks, the federal government announced the air at ground zero was safe.

That was not true and thousands have died from illnesses linked to 9/11. The health care workers say that cannot happen this time around.

Oren Barzilay is an EMT with the FDNY and President of Local 2507, Uniformed EMT’s, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors.  

“I’m actually blaming the feds for redacting a statement that they made two weeks ago that we should be wearing respirators and now they want us wearing face masks,” Barzilay said. “Are we looking at this epidemic to happen in a larger scale because they’re not giving us the right information?”

Nurses say people who are infected but are not showing symptoms can spread the virus, which be can spread by inhaling droplets from coughs or sneezes or touching a contaminated surface.

Mt. Sinai in Manhattan and other hospitals are converting existing space into isolation units for coronavirus patients.

Robin Krinsky is a nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital.

“It is private, it has its own bathroom and the nurse has a  private sink and can don and doff the PPE  personal protective  equipment,” said Krinsky.

Kathy Santoiemma a nurse at Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital has this word of caution if you think you’ve been infected.

“We should tell patients that they are supposed to call the ER before they come in because you can have a nurse at the door greet them, put a mask on them and take them into the isolation so that no one else is exposed,” said Santoiemma.

The Nurse’s Association says the coronavirus threat is still increasing and everything must be done to protect the people who are going to treat everyone else.

Oren Barzilay
FDNY EMS Local 2507