COVID-19 Update: March 27, 2020

Dear UNAC/UHCP members,

We all know this is a big moment we’re facing.

We see the work that you’re doing and the sacrifices you’re making. Thank you for your professionalism and commitment, even when this crisis is hitting home. I’m hearing the most inspiring, courageous stories from our members who are caring for patients and from our retirees who are offering to jump in and help.

You care about your loved ones, your colleagues and your patients, and it shows.

But things are going to get worse. We see other communities where the virus has hit hard, such as Italy and New York. It’s very telling of what this pandemic will ultimately look like for us.

We will get more patients. Some of us will get sick. We all are going to have to press our communities on the need to continue social distancing. As a group of our members said in a meme they made for social media: “We stay at work for you. Please stay at home for us!”

We’re going to have to use the public’s trust of our profession to reach out to the consumers and citizens of this nation and say: “You have got to help us keep everyone safe.”

There’s not an unlimited supply of health care professionals who can care for the onslaught of people who catch this virus by ignoring social distancing. We owe it to our patients and our families to stand strong on this message—no matter how many bars and bowling alleys want to reopen.

Last weekend was tough. We jumped to more than 20,000 cases in the United States. PPE, beds and ventilators are all in short supply. Our virtual offices were getting calls for PPE, N95 masks, gloves, gowns, shields and other equipment. Nurses and health care professionals were being told to make do with very little or none. Many of you were placed in harm’s way when some made the decision to steal or misuse the personal protective equipment that remained.

Some organizations panicked, going on the evening news to spread it.

At UNAC/UHCP, we know the best way to show leadership is to be strategic and innovative, and work with our friends, allies and employers—not against the public good.

So, we looked to solution-driven responses. We got the hospital CEOs of California hospitals to agree to postpone all unnecessary surgeries and show us absolute transparency on the availability of equipment in the facilities where you work.

It’s not the same as an N95 materializing into your hands. But it’s the reality of what we can do. We use the relationships we have—in the hospital, at city hall, at the capitol, in private enterprise, and in the community—to amplify our needs as we face this coming surge of COVID-19 patients. Those 20,000 cases are now above 80,000 cases.

A week in review:

  • Stood firm that UNAC/UHCP would support its members to wear their own PPE until Kaiser Permanente has a plentiful supply.
  • Asked Kaiser Permanente to extend the certification timelines for renewal of CPR, ACLS and PALS. This was completed this week.
  • Supported cohorting of patients, more security in the workplace, limits on visitor access to hospitals.
  • Secured the backing of the California Hospital Association for canceling elective surgeries, as well as increased communication and transparency around supply availability.
  • Developed a structure to fight for all independent affiliates to address their needs under the direction of UNAC/UHCP Secretary Liz Hawkins, RN.

State and federal legislation and rules are addressing sick leave, paid family medical leave and unemployment insurance. And if that wasn’t enough, California received a federal major disaster declaration, making billions in aid available to combat this pandemic.

There are volunteers sewing masks and companies donating supplies to us directly. Home Depot sent 130 N95 masks to St. Francis Medical Center in Los Angeles this week.

Here’s what we’re going to keep doing. We will build on the support we’ve received from elected officials, in Sacramento, and in our own neighborhoods. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senator Connie Leyva have reached out directly with offers to help our members.

We will support our retirees in boots-on-the-ground efforts to sew masks and make regular phone calls to join “be a friend” programs that will reach out to members of the community struggling with loneliness and isolation.

Our priority is to keep you safe: We will continue to engage our employers in conversation, not in public attacks, as we recognize the weight of your sacrifices. Our registered nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals are struggling with childcare and social distancing from at-risk family members inside their own homes.

We have a duty to follow the science and stay informed on the most current information and urge our members to do the same. Stay tuned for a new campaign.

As we work with your employers, we urge you to check work emails for updates, and get your information from credible medical sources.

Finally, we pledge to support our whole community. Grocery store workers, like many health care professionals, cannot work from home. And, like us, their work is essential to the health and safety of our communities and they must remain on the job as families still need food and supplies. Because these workers also feel unsafe due to crowding, understaffing, and risk of infection, we should sign this UFCW petition of support.

There’s a reason why you went to work for a health care organization. You believe in caring for the community. You believe in providing the best care to others in whatever capacity you can. We’re in this together. The surge is coming. We need to educate and protect ourselves and our families and our friends.

—Denise Duncan, RN
UNAC/UHCP President