COVID-19 Update: April 10, 2020

Dear UNAC/UHCP members,

This week we all braced for it: the reported peak in COVID-19 cases, especially in Southern California where most of our members currently live and work. We are here, still in the middle of this crisis. That’s the reality. We can say we may have flattened the curve—thanks to strong leadership at the state level and our own individual efforts to take extraordinary precautions. We must focus on what works for us—and be strategic about what worries us.

We’re in the thick of this battle. In the State of California, we boldly committed to social distancing and we shut down nonessential services earlier than other places. As a result, we have not experienced the levels of infections and deaths that were initially projected.

Nonetheless, we are putting pressure on our employers, elected officials and communities to help health care workers and first-responders care for patients, and to protect our workforce. We’ve done everything we can to make up for the national lack of preparedness, lack of a comprehensive plan, and lack of personal protective equipment to get directly to your facilities—and in your hands.

Our advocacy is constant. We’re not standing on the sidelines, holding signs. We’ve gone directly to the people who have answers—and together we’ve gotten tangible results:
• Hospitals are canceling nonessential procedures to preserve equipment and showing transparency on equipment availability.
• California Gov. Gavin Newsom has secured 200 million PPE, hotel rooms for health care workers, and ramped-up testing.
• Our employers are agreeing to benefits ranging from paid leave to child-care grants to extensions of key professional certifications (PALS, etc.).
• Community leaders, elected officials, and businesses are stepping up to help you, the health care workers who are leaning into this crisis.

Are there more questions to be answered and results to be had? Of course. Sitting down at the table, instead of jeering from the outside, is the only way to get there. This week, in a townhall meeting for health care workers, Gov. Newsom pledged comprehensive support to UNAC/UHCP members and others on the COVID-19 front lines.

UNAC/UHCP leadership has gone to your hospitals to broker preservation and transparency. We have partnered with Newsom’s office to make sure California sets the standard and the model for dealing with this crisis. We’ve joined AFSCME in national calls for transparency and accountability in PPE and the well-being of essential workers. Our goal is for our union’s affiliate member/leaders to partner with individual facilities and their communities to ensure PPE supplies and guidelines provide the most protection possible.

We’re engaging the right stakeholders. We’re asking the right questions. We are not done.

Even in the face of a second wave of COVID-19 predicted for the fall, we have urged conversations now about wide-spread rapid testing and wide-spread antibody testing. We can also use our experience and the trust the community has placed in us to talk about:
• significant boosts in equipment, supplies and training for the health care workforce
• reduction in the number of people ravaged by this virus, and
• bringing back manageable staffing levels and proper scope of work.

I know this virus has created the most difficult period in our history. I see the way we’ve all stepped up. Truly, I’m so proud of the care, compassion, and coaching of fellow caregivers. I don’t need the benefit of hindsight to tell you that your work is making a difference.

Thank you for all you’re doing during these hard times,

Denise Duncan, RN
UNAC/UHCP President