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US nurses hold second day of protests against lack of PPE in hospitals

NURSES held a second day of protests across seven US states today to highlight a lack of protective equipment in Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) hospitals – the wealthiest privately run chain in the country.

"When we are infected, we become a real danger of infecting everyone else around us, patients, hospital staff, and a risk to our own families," Kim Smith, a registered nurse in Texas said. 

The protests, which started on Wednesday, were organised by the National Nurses United (NNU) union, which represents more than 10,000 nurses at HCA hospitals – privateers with a revenue of $46.7 billion in 2018.

Despite its profits, just seven percent of nurses in HCA hospitals said they had enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect staff and patients during the coronavirus pandemic, compared with 19 percent of nurses in general.

Just 35 percent of nurses across the HCA – which also runs a number of private hospitals in Britain – reported having access to N95 respirators (face masks), compared with 52 percent of nurses nationwide.

“We must lower the epidemic peak and protect nurses,” said NNU general secretary Bonnie Castillo. “Flattening the curve of Covid-19 is essential to prevent a catastrophic overload of our hospitals.

“However, capacity is driven lower every time a nurse falls sick because they provided care without the proper protection.”

NNU president Jean Ross added: "Nurses at various HCA hospitals are reporting that they have had to work without proper protective equipment."

She explained that nurses were not being informed when they were exposed to infected patients and were being told by the profit-making hospitals to re-use masks, “unsafely”.

“At one hospital they are even being told not to wear masks because it scares the patients,” she said.

The US has close to 250,000 cases of Covid-19, more than double the number in China at its peak, and is now the  epicentre of the global pandemic. 

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