As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, nurses are on the front line of what's happening. That’s why Wednesday evening, local Corpus Christi Medical Center nurses planned a protest for more protection during the coronavirus pandemic.
The CCMC nurses said they do not have enough personal protection equipment -- like gloves, masks and robes, known as PPE -- to protect themselves and protect patients as they treat and attempt to prevent the COVID-19 spread.
“I haven't seen anything like this in my 22 years as a nurse, and it gives me great concern,” said ICU nurse Kim Smith.
Smith said some of her co-workers are even wearing one mask for a full 12-hour shift, when they should have access to at least three.
“You’re going to have issues, and nurses should not need to staple the strap on a mask," Smith said. "That should not even be something that's occurring to me."
Meanwhile, 20-year nursing field veteran Kathy Gossett said other nurses are wearing masks, but not the right kind.
“We have just been, as of yesterday, able to wear a mask, and it's just a surgical mask,” said Gossett. “It's not tight-fitting around the face or anything.”
As part of the protest, 10 nurses stood on the sidewalk, 6 feet apart, in an effort to emphasize their concerns to hospital leaders.
The nurses said they reached out to hospital officials in early February to get more information on the amount of supplies they had available, including masks. The nurses said they haven’t gotten much feedback since.
“It’s very scary,” Gossett said. “I mean, if we catch (COVID-19), who is going to be taking care of the patients that are coming through our doors?”
Now, in a global health crisis, the nurses believe more protection means more safety for their patients and the community.
“If the nurses aren't safe, how safe is everybody else?” Smith said. “Because, you know, we live in the community, too. And this is a disease that is easily spread.”
In a statement, CCMS said they say they’ve set up an emergency operations command center that is working around the clock to secure supplies.
"Additional precautionary efforts include reinforcing appropriate infection prevention protocols and guidance from the CDC, ensuring that we have necessary supplies and equipment, and emergency planning," a statement released Wednesday reads. "To support our staff, we have assigned hospital-led teams to monitor each of our hospitals and provide real-time education for our front-line staff.
"We have activated an emergency operations command center that is working around the clock to implement our safety protocols and find realistic, workable solutions for securing supplies. To help ensure our caregivers have the supplies and equipment that they need and are being heard, the Corpus Christi Medical Center team is in daily contact with our colleagues through employee rounding and safety huddles."