HARRISBURG, Pa. —
Two Pennsylvania nurse groups held a virtual rally promoting #NursesPlatform, a list of demands to improve working conditions for frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organizing groups, grassroots Nurses of Pennsylvania and the Nurse Alliance of SEIU PA, are using National Nurses Week, which began May 6, as a chance both to celebrate nurses’ work and highlight their needs during the pandemic.
“As the Commonwealth turns from flattening the curve to organizing life with COVID-19 and no reliable vaccine, we are raising our voices in the recovery,” said Michelle Boyle, a Pittsburgh-based nurse and member of Nurses of Pennsylvania.
#NursesPlatform includes six demands:
Adequate PPE now and for the future
Widespread rapid testing and contact tracing
Paid sick time for every essential worker
Nurses must have a seat at every table where recovery plans are being made
Workplace protections for nurses advocating for our patients
Get people the healthcare they need, regardless of the money they have
During the virtual rally, nurses spoke on some of these demands, including paid sick leave for essential workers.
“Are we working in a safe and clean environment if we're asking nurses to come to work sick? If we have to come to work sick?” said Dan Eaton, a nurse in Erie and member of Nurses of Pennsylvania. “I think the answer is no.”
Some nurses report inadequate PPE, which they want changed through updated workplace safety standards.
“The gown that I was given was so substandard that I wouldn't even call it protective equipment,” said Donna Stinson, a nurse in a long-term nursing facility in Allentown. “The gown was blue, it was made of plastic, it was barely thicker than a piece of Saran Wrap... The gown tore twice in two different places while trying to put it on, and taking it off it tore again.”
Stinson works for Cedarbrook Senior Care and Rehab, according to a recent facility newsletter.
A call to the nursing facility for comment on their staff’s PPE policies was not returned.
Legislation is already in the works to build state stockpiles of PPE for future crises.
Democratic State Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery/Bucks), herself a registered nurse, proposed a bill that would provide emergency funding for PPE and prioritize frontline workers for COVID-19 testing.
“We need to take the lessons that we're learning now and we need to make sure we're better prepared for inevitable future public health emergencies,” Collett said.
Nurses of Pennsylvania leaders said they want their platform considered in the state’s reopening plan, and called on every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to meet with nurses and discuss the best and safest way to move forward.