COVID-Crisis PPE Emergency

On May 1, 2020, a panicked primary care physician in an LA County clinic wrote to supervision, “I will not be able to see the COVID suspect patients in the cafeteria. I do not have proper PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]. We need to reuse our jump suit…We have to reuse our N-95 again and again…We are not provided shoe covers… I have a daughter and a wife…in-laws that are immune compromised senior[s] …. My nurses need the proper equipment… One of our head nurses already got sick and indirectly possibly infected her father, mother, and sister…Father passed away and mother is intubated.”

He then contacted his UAPD representative saying that in response to his communication, managers had come to him citing guidance from the County’s infectious disease specialists saying that he had to see the patients even without the PPE he requested. He explained to his representative that he felt unsafe and that his frightened wife was telling him not to see the patients. The UAPD representative explained that refusal to follow an order could result in discipline for insubordination, but that management had an obligation to provide a safe work environment and employees have a right to refuse unsafe orders.

In the end, management agreed to provide masks to employees as needed, allowed the physician to see patients protected by a glass window barrier, and allowed RNs not to take full patient vitals. It was the physician bravely taking a stand against a bullying and uncaring management, who with support from his UAPD representative, was able to win changes to unsafe practices that created safer conditions for all patients and employees.