BANGOR — Maine nurses will speak out at a protest in Bangor, Wednesday, Aug. 5, at 4 p.m., at the United States Federal Building, during a day designated nationally by nurses for action to save lives during COVID-19 and beyond.
“COVID has exposed everything that has been wrong with our system,” said Zenei Cortez, RN and a president of National Nurses United (NNU), in a news release. “The old way was a huge failure. Now is the time to reenvision a world based on nurses’ values of caring, compassion, and community.”
As firsthand witnesses and actual victims during this COVID-19 crisis of a health care and economic system that prioritizes money over people, according to NNU, registered nurse members of NNU are holding more than 200 protests across the United States, August 5, to demand that elected leaders, government, and hospital employers take immediate action to save lives.
“Nurses advocate for their patients at all levels,” said NNU. “Inside hospital walls, nurses want employers to protect nurses, other health care workers, and patients by following proper infection control practices, which include providing optimal PPE and a safe workload of patients. Outside hospital walls, nurses want Congress to help struggling households by urgently passing legislation to extend COVID economic benefits that expired in July, for our government to invest in the public health of our communities, and for a dismantling of the structural racism that prematurely and disproportionately ends the lives of Black, Indigenous, people of color – whether it is by COVID or at the hands of police violence.”
RNs are demanding that the Senate pass the HEROES Act, a pending bill they are backing that would not only protect health care and other essential workers by ensuring domestic production of PPE through the Defense Production Act and by mandating that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration establish an emergency temporary standard on infectious diseases, but also provide desperately needed economic help in the form of cash payments, extended unemployment benefits, and daycare subsidies through the end of 2020 to families on the brink.
“Nurses know that this country’s rampant social, economic, and racial injustice has been killing our patients all along. COVID-19 is just forcing us as a society to face these problems,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN and NNU executive director. “These recent COVID surges and uncontrolled infections and deaths, the failure of employers to protect our nurses and other workers, the outrageously high rates of unemployment and hunger, the totalitarian crackdown on protesters — every crisis we are seeing now can be traced back to our failure to value human lives over profit.”
Maine RNs see the prioritization of profits over patients in hospital management’s practice of forcing nurses and other healthcare workers to reuse PPE that was intended only for single use, according to NNU.
“Like all frontline workers during this pandemic, we are constantly aware that without proper protection, we could easily catch this virus or bring it home to our families,” said MSNA President Cokie Giles. “We are very willing to do our jobs to fight this horrible disease, but we want adequate protection to do it. As we have done for months, we again call on Senator Susan Collins to pressure the Trump administration to fully implement the Defense Production Act, so that all Americans can have the PPE and the testing that we all so desperately need.”