Press Release

Gulf Coast nurses to join 139 nationwide ‘May Day’ actions demanding COVID-19 protections for nurses, health care workers

Nurse holding social distancing rally for better workplace protections

Gulf Coast area nurses will be marking Friday, May 1—International Workers Day, also known as “May Day”—with shift change actions calling for optimal COVID-19 protections. These local actions are part of nurse actions taking place at 139 hospitals in 13 states representing more than 95,540 nurses, according to National Nurses United (NNU).

Nurses say their demand for optimal PPE is underscored by the fact that more than 60 nurses across the country have died of COVID-19, although due to lack of testing, the number is surely higher.

“Nurses signed up to care for their patient. They did not sign up to sacrifice their lives on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. “On this day that celebrates the labor movement and working people, union nurses are standing up to demand the protections they need now!”

“Nurses are working dangerously short staffed, not provided gowns for patients with communicable diseases, and forced to reuse N95 masks from patient to patient. It’s unbelievable that Largo Medical Center refuses to listen to nurses when we are just trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 to our patients, colleagues, and families,” said Martin Peebles, RN, of Largo Medical Center.

“Fawcett Memorial Hospital told me I was exposed to COVID-19 at work and the hospital never even offered to test me. I was tested by my own primary care physician and the results came back positive. I feel fortunate my family and I survived, but dozens of nurses sadly lost their lives. Now, several of my coworkers are COVID positive and I worry for their health. Nurses have been demanding for months that every nurse be provided with an N95 mask. Now, I am being told patients are testing positive that were admitted to the hospital negative. This is a nurse’s worst nightmare,” said Gary Mousseau, RN, of Fawcett Memorial Hospital.

“Blake Medical Center nurses are provided with five contact gowns per shift, which is a fraction of what is required to work safely. We are instructed to wear the same gown for all patients and told to only change our gloves between patients. These gowns are manufactured to only be worn once,” said Ginelle Stewart, RN, of Blake Medical Center.

National Nurses United registered nurse members are calling on employers and the government to provide nurses and other health care workers with the highest level of protections, including powered air-purifying respirators, and single use of N95s and coveralls that incorporate head coverings and shoe coverings, and gloves. Otherwise, hospitals will remain fomites for infection, say NNU RNs, and nurses and health care workers will continue to get sick and sidelined, die, and be unable to care for the next wave of patients.

Nurses say it’s clear that the industry thinks they have produced an acceptable solution to the PPE shortage by implementing widespread use of various N95 decontamination systems. This is unacceptable and unsafe, say nurses, who are calling on President Trump to activate the Defense Production Act to order the mass production of PPE. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must also pass an emergency temporary standard to mandate that healthcare employers provide protections needed for COVID-19, say nurses.

Gulf Coast Florida May Day actions will take place at the following locations/times on Friday, May 1:

Largo Medical Center
201 14th Street Southwest, Largo Fl 33770 (in front of Main Entrance and 24/7 ER)
1:30 p.m.
Contact: Erica Askin, 813-682-7214

Medical Center of Trinity
9330 FL-54, Trinity, FL 34655
7:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Contact: Samantha May, 747-207-5106

Blake Medical Center
2020 59th Street W, Bradenton, FL 34209
8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. (by the parking garage)
Contact: Brian Walsh, 813-466-4810

Fawcett Memorial Hospital
21298 Olean Blvd, Port Charlotte, FL 33952
5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. (Entrance on Brinson Ave.)
Contact: Brian Walsh, 813-466-4810