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Hospital workers' union calling out for more PPE
Emanuel protest
Hospital worker union members picket outside Emanuel Medical Center on Wednesday decrying the lack of personal protective equipment available for staff (FRANKIE TOVAR/The Journal).

Workers at 11 Tenet Healthcare hospitals in California, including Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, held informational picketing events over the last couple days to raise awareness of the ongoing need for personal protective equipment.

The picketing was organized by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), which represents around 97,000 members that include hospital workers like service, maintenance, technical and some healthcare professions. The union does not represent the registered nurses at Emanuel Medical Center.

The picketing at all the hospitals was specifically to highlight an ongoing need for PPE, according to the union.

"We do not have enough," said Wendy Becker, a respiratory therapist at EMC, referring to face masks and other PPE. "People are reusing their masks for literally months. We are told to use what we have and that we don't have anymore."

Becker said she knows several of her colleagues have been sickened with COVID-19 and said she worries it will continue if they don't have more PPE.

"We're scared for us," Becker said. "We're scared for our patients and our families, because they're not able to protect us in a proper manner."

A spokesperson for Emanuel Medical Center said the hospital is routinely securing PPE for all the hospital workers and that it does not impact patient safety. EMC also refutes the claim that hospital staff have had to reuse PPE for months.

"We can safely care for our patients with the supplies we currently have. Our team is actively sourcing around the world for additional supplies. We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our patients and staff," stated the hospital.

The picketing comes as the union is currently in contract negotiations with Tenet.

"The hospital is fully operational and our staff’s focus, as always, is on providing exceptional quality patient care," said an EMC spokesperson. "While we value all of our employees who are represented by the SEIU-UHW, we are disappointed that the union is taking this approach. We have only been bargaining with the union on a successor contract since May and will continue to negotiate in good faith in hopes of reaching a successful resolution.

"We are proud of the professionalism and dedication demonstrated by our caregivers and staff during this unprecedented pandemic."