SANTA MONICA, CA — Nurses and community members protested in a caravan outside a Santa Monica hospital Tuesday asking hospital officials to provide hotel rooms so health care workers can prevent spreading the new coronavirus to their families as they continue to fight the pandemic.
The caravan outside Providence Saint John's Health Center started at 2 p.m. The protest also included nurses and community members sending emails to the hospital executive board requesting they provide hotel rooms for staff.
"It went really well today. There was a really good turnout of both nurses and community members," Adam Smith told Patch by phone. "I think we had about 45 cars and were out there for 45 minutes."
Smith's wife is a nurse at Providence St. John's hospital. After her shift ends each night, she rushes home, changes in the laundry room at their apartment building that's separate from their apartment, and immediately showers when she gets inside.
"Luckily, she hasn't been — except for a few nights in the past few weeks — she hasn't been with COVID patients, so we're lucky in that regard," he told Patch. "It's tough because we have a 4- and 5-year-old, and you can't say, 'Don't go jump on mom.'"
The sacrifices for health care workers have been tough. But to Smith, the coronavirus outbreak is also hard on the people who aren't seen — the hospital cleaning staff.
"My wife is an RN at Saint John's, and I care about nurses, but it should be about every employee who is exposed, not just the nurses and doctors and stuff," Smith said.
Smith said he's concerned about the ancillary staff, the people going into a room after a patient dies or sick patient transfers out.
"I'm a stay-at-home dad and community organizer with an anti-racist group," he said. "This isn't the normal community organizing I do, but you know."
The family is staying together in their apartment, but he's speaking out and asking the hospital to help.
"For now, she's not looking for a hotel anyway," Smith said. "Yes, it's for my family, but it's for every family."
It's unclear what could happen next, but Smith said he's hopeful.
"We don't know what two weeks down the line is going to look like; we don't know what it's going to look like in a month or whatever. We seem to be flattening the curve, but it seems like this is one thing the hospital can do," he said. "According to the nurses union, there are a couple of nurses who have gotten COVID. How many people live in small apartments, how many families are multigenerational?"
Smith hopes resources will be more available to health care and other essential workers. So far, it's been difficult for people to access help, he said.
About 148 people were sending emails to the hospital executive board Tuesday, and the board responded, he said.
"Two weeks ago, they sort of ignored us, but now they're responding. So they're obviously hearing us. They're giving out links to different programs," Smith said.
"For example, there's one through the Hilton, if you belong to an organization. Still nothing is being facilitated by the hospital, which is a problem," Smith said.
Some hotels in Santa Monica are offering discount "hero rates" for health care workers, but that doesn't cover the cost for workers.
"Some of these programs are discount rates, they're not even free, and they expect the workers to pick up the tab for it, which I think is kind of ridiculous for how much money that hospital and greater hospital facility pulls in each year," Smith said. "Loews Santa Monica is working with police officers, firefighters, paramedics as needed through the city of Santa Monica. There are examples of that all over the city."
"Our friends work at UCLA and County USC, and the hotels are taking the initiative to facilitate and make sure folks have options, instead of saying, 'Call this number' and being put on hold for hours," Smith said. "They know how hard they work. It seems like an easy thing. The option should be there. These people are working 12-hour shifts and asking the hospital to just have an option for them."
Earlier this month, 15 nurses at Providence Saint John's Health Center refused to treat coronavirus patients unless they were given N95 masks or better, according to the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. Ten of those nurses were subsequently suspended.
Providence is now providing the N95 masks to nurses treating COVID-19 patients, according to the hospital. The suspended nurses have since headed back to work but have disciplinary actions on their records.
Patch reached out to Providence Saint John's Health Center for more information about how health care workers can access possible hotel accommodations during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have provided a list of free hotel options for our caregivers. Below is a snapshot of what we have provided them," Connie Barilla of Providence told Patch via email.
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses
- American College of Emergency Physicians
- American Hospital Association
- American Nurses Association
- Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association
- Emergency Nurses Association
- National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
- Society of Critical Care Medicine
- Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants
- Society of Hospital Medicine
"Hilton will be reaching out directly to members of the following organizations' via email on Monday, April 13, 2020, to offer free accommodations from April 13 through May 31, 2020. If you belong to one of these organizations, watch for an email if you are interested in staying at a Hilton property while you care for patients with COVID-19," Barilla said.
Marriott is offering members of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) free accommodations in the Los Angeles area for staff on the front lines of COVID-19 through Thursday, she added.
ENA members can log in and make reservations. ACEP members can log in with this link for this and other discount information.
The state has also launched a program to provide hotel rooms to front-line health care workers who are exposed to or test positive for COVID-19 and do not have the ability to self-isolate or quarantine at home. These workers can call 877-454-8785 to make a reservation and a fact sheet offers more information.
- City News Service contributed to this report.
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