ALAMEDA, California — Health care workers, activists and community members held a vigil to honor their fallen front-line colleagues on Saturday, October 10, in front of the Alameda Hospital in this city.
The vigil was part of a five-day strike and community rallies coordinated by nurses from Alameda Hospital, San Leandro Hospital, and Highland Hospital to demand that Alameda Health System provide better staffing and safer working conditions worsened by the current coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re out here having a vigil to remember all of the nurses that have passed away during this pandemic. Just lifting up their names and just taking time to grieve as a community,” said the Rev. Jeanelle Ablola, and member of the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns.
The prominent role of Filipinos in the rallies and vigil came as no surprise. Filipino American health care workers are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. They make up only 4% of the nursing workforce in the U.S. yet account for 30% of all health care worker deaths attributed to Covid. In California, Filipinos make up 20% of nurses throughout the state but constitute 70% of Covid deaths among nurses.
Karen Rothblatt, a registered nurse at the Alameda Hospital, said that the lack of managerial care at her hospital has created a hazardous work environment and that the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified the problems that had already been persistent.
“We’ve had a lot of problems with broken equipment… lack of PPE. Management has locked up our PPE, so then nurses have to actually ask for what they need before they can go into a patient’s room,” says Rothblatt.
Alameda health care workers have been in contract negotiations for two years, according to Rothblatt. Though there has been some progress, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors announced on Friday, Oct. 9, that they would disband the Alameda Health System’s Board of Trustees, which have been accused of mismanagement of the county’s health care system.
Rothblatt says that for nurses, going on strike is their last resort to gain better contracts and working conditions.
“We don’t want to be out here on the streets. We want to be inside taking care of our patients,” Rothblatt says.
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