PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Frontline workers and state officials made a plea to the federal government for more personal protective equipment on Monday.
“I have been on the frontlines of this healthcare crisis since it has begun,” Alicia Holihan, an emergency department technician at Riverbend Hospital in Springfield, Oregon, said.
Joining virtual hand-in-hand, they called on the federal government to take several actions to increase the supply of PPE.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say this outrageous lack of action will result in lost lives,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said.
In addition to distributing all of the medical supplies from the federal stockpile, they ask the Trump administration to speed immediate production of new equipment and make sure it’s sent to states for distribution to all frontline workers.
“For the first time in my life, I’ve considered whether I need to write a will,” said a respiratory therapist at OHSU, Casey Parr. “I’m already anticipating that I will likely be infected because I lack basic protective equipment.”
Kevin Mealy of the Oregon Nurses Association says they’re seeing safety standards drop across the state, and the executive director, Sarah Laslett, says the stories they’re hearing are appalling.
“In some facilities, protective equipment has already run out," Laslett said. "In Portland, we’re seeing emergency room nurses wearing swim goggles because there are no more medical face shields. On the coast, they are storing their dirty masks in paper bags and Rubbermaid containers to reuse again. And in central Oregon right now, some of our nurses have been wearing the same N95 masks for three weeks straight.”
And it isn’t just the hospital workers. Those with home care jobs are struggling. Irene Hunt, a home care worker in Springfield, recently made the choice for her daughter to stay with her 70-year-old mother-in-law.
“I had to drop my daughter off Monday and I have not been able to pick her back up, to make sure they stay safe because I am afraid,” Hunt said. “I’m choosing to continue to try and take care of my clients and to keep my job.”
Minimal PPE may be the same story you’ve heard day in and day out. The reason it matters more now than ever is because if frontline workers can’t be protected, neither can we.
“Please everybody do your part, Holihan said. "Stay home. That way, we can protect our patients and ourselves."
The group also called on the federal government to ensure all frontline workers can be tested easily, and to identify reserves of equipment in other industries, such as construction.
In many states, including Oregon, construction workers are still considered essential.
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