Nicole Harms, a representative with National Nurses United, did not get a break during her 12-hour shift in the emergency room Wednesday.
The surgical mask she put over her face at 7 a.m. was still there at about 7:30 p.m., when she joined members of the union outside MountainView Hospital to call for increased staffing and improved access to personal protective equipment.
“You’re exhausted, you’re tired, you’re hungry,” Harms said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, union representatives claimed at Wednesday’s protest, MountainView and other hospitals have purposefully cut temporary nurse staff in order to save money, which has caused some members to feel overworked at a time when the health care providers are asked to be at their best.
“I am not necessarily the one who suffers the most,” chief union representative and nurse Nicole Koester said. “The one who suffers is my patient.”
It was the second such action by union representatives. The first, on April 1, called attention to how nurses were required to wear the same surgical mask during shifts.
While there has been a drop in patients coming into the hospital, not every unit at MountainView has experienced the same decrease, union members said.
The intensive care unit, where patients already require meticulous attention from nurses and medical staff, have been busy, nurses said.
“And yet they have chosen to cut staffing,” union representative and ICU nurse Vanessa Evans said. “It is not because we do not have the staff. This is not a (COVID-19) epicenter. We have people who are willing to work.”
She said fewer nurses are having to care for more critically sick patients.
“Nurses are being forced to make decisions they shouldn’t have to,” labor representative Lanita Troyano said.
The union represents about 900 nurses who work at MountainView. And the union represents about 10,000 nurses working across the country at hospitals operated by HCA Healthcare, which operates MountainView, 3100 N. Tenaya Way.
Antonio Castelan, a spokesman for HCA Healthcare, sent a statement from the company in response to the union’s claims Wednesday night.
“These external organizations are only creating distention without our employee population, which appears to be their goal, during a time when it is most critical that the community that we serve be supportive of the work that we do,” the statement read.
HCA said MountainView was “one of the first hospitals in Las Vegas to reduce access to the hospital, (and) implement external screening processes” to keep staff and patients safe during the pandemic.
“We continue to staff at appropriate and safe levels for the patient care required,” the statement read.