BREMERTON, Wash. — Following an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton, staff and members of their union expressed their concerns over the "magnitude of the problems."
St. Michael workers and their union, UFCW 21, gave a virtual press conference on Tuesday morning, listing concerns including being asked to come to work before coronavirus test results are confirmed and a lack of PPE.
"Next time health care workers or any workers are speaking up and saying it is not safe during this pandemic everyone needs to listen. We've been sounding the alarm for so long, now everyone is at risk," said Cindy Franck, a nurse at St. Michael and a union member leader.
Franck and co-worker Rob Shauger, a certified nursing assistant, said a coworker tested positive for coronavirus.
The "coworker that was positive was not even notified that he was exposed. And now he's sick and he's in the ER today," Franck said.
Shauger said that workers are told that they have to retest weekly, but it takes several days to find out whether the test is positive.
Additionally, Franck and Schauger said employees are told to use their best judgment to decide whether to come to work.
Workers and the union presented a "list of demands" to the state Department of Health and Kitsap County Public Health, including:
- Rapid COVID-19 tests and results
- Eight-hour notification of potential exposure
- Paid leave while awaiting test results
- Consistent staffing levels
- Adequate PPE for all workers
Dr. Gib Morrow, health officer for the Kitsap Public Health District, reported during a briefing Monday that 30 staff and 15 patients at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton were infected with COVID-19.
“I think this is just an example of how insidious and tricky and difficult to recognize this virus is, and that’s the reason every one of us needs to behave as if we are infected and everyone around us is,” Morrow said.
Morrow said the health district expects the number of cases to rise as St. Michael continues to test all staff and patients.
The hospital reported the first COVID-19 case in the outbreak on Aug. 4, according to a timeline provided by the health district.