UW Medicine employees demonstrate for increased COVID-19 protection

SEATTLE – Dozens of University of Washington medical professionals demonstrated outside Harborview Medical Center calling for safer working conditions.

The crowd demanded more personal protection equipment and expressed worry that layoffs could impact employees who least can afford to lose a job.

The demonstrations came after this as UW Medicine announced an enormous financial hole thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.

“I think it’s a problem with priorities,” said Kisha Clune.

Staffers claimed their bosses had not only failed to adequately protect employees, patients and their families, but demonstrators insisted proposed job cuts will hurt those least likely to recover.

Seattle’s healthcare sector has been at the forefront of Puget Sound’s response to coronavirus, one of the most publicly visible efforts has been testing.

A UW Medicine spokesperson told Q13 News the organization developed contract tracing and PPE policies using public health guidance and infectious disease experts.

But some employees complain that’s not enough.

“My concern is protection,” said Amanda Peters. “We need more face masks.”

UW Medicine warned it could be half a billion dollars in the red by this summer because of the pandemic. The organization hopes state and federal programs could ease the pain but cutbacks are expected across the organization.

King County Council is also helping ease the pain.

“Just two days ago we passed a public health response,” said councilmember Girmay Zahilay.

Another complaint for some demonstrators worry co-workers who don’t usually work immediately with COVID-19 patients could still be risk.

“We need plexiglass,” said Sherronda Mamerson..

A UW Medicine spokesperson said while sneeze guards have not proven to be effective against the virus it has installed some and will add more to ease worry.

For those protesting what they see as inequity, even in Seattle, speaking out is a responsibility.

“We have to take risks to get what we need,” said Jamerson.

UW Medicine has already announced furloughs at Valley Medical Center in Renton. More could be coming for the organization’s other hospitals, and Airlift Northwest and the UW School of Medicine.