NYC Nurses: Showing images of dead colleagues and seeking more security on the front line

Terrified city nurses, bearing images of colleagues killed by coronavirus, made a
desperate call Friday for better security on the front lines of the pandemic.

“Here we are, against the worst enemy, because this one we can’t see,” said nurse Diana Torres, her passionate voice bearing witness to the growing crisis. “We can’t touch it. It’s killing us all. And we have nothing to fight with.”

She joined a dozen colleagues outside Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan to call for masks, caps and even hazmat suits as the death toll continues to grow. Sasha Winslow, a 9-year nursing veteran and mother of a 5-year-old boy, stood outside the entrance with a sign declaring “We won’t be your bodybags.”

Winslow cited the dangerous caseload facing each nurse as hospital staffing becomes a more serious issue. The current ratio is three nurses for 35 patients, with most of them likely infected with COVID-19, she said. And short-staffing is complicated by the frenzied pace of battling the virus.

“Let that sink in,” she said.

Mike Pappas, a family medical physician who works at city hospitals, said no one was asking for anything extraordinary — just the basics to do their jobs without fear.

“We are the ones of the front lines of this pandemic,” he said. “We know what we need. And we need personal protection equipment for every single health care worker. Period.”

According to Winslow, hospital leadership agreed just five hours before the rally to meet some of their demands. The biggest involved providing the N95 protective masks; workers were asked last week to keep their used respirators in a brown bag and reuse them, she said.

Mount Sinai, in a statement released later, said the hospital’s top priority remained keeping its staff and its patients safe.

“We are continuing to move heaven and earth to ensure our healthcare staff have access to proper PPE,” said spokesperson Jason Kaplan. “We understand the fear and concerns, and we will continue to do everything possible to protect our heroes on the front lines. We will not stop until this crisis is over.”

A similar rally was slated for Monday at Harlem Hospital as the state’s infected population climbed above 100,000 — with 562 killed in a single day this week.

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