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Butler Hospital healthcare professionals demand PPE for all workers

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With at least 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases, dozens of frontline workers demand Administrators stop putting staff & patients at risk.


Frontline staff at Butler Hospital filled 100+ cars in a protest caravan outside their facility to demand management provide critical N-95 respirators to all health care professionals at the facility. Despite at least 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff and patients, management has refused to provide proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to any classification of workers other than nursing and ER staff, including environmental services, dietary and clerical workers, social services, despite having enough N95 respirators on hand.

According to Center for Disease Control guidelines, consistent and thorough environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures are integral in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare facilities. “Cleaning and sanitation work in our hospital is just as important as nursing in helping us beat the virus. This virus does not discriminate against who it infects, so management can’t discriminate against who they protect,” said Maria Dias, who’s worked in Housekeeping at Butler for 38 years, “Our families, our patients, our community can’t afford for us to be an afterthought. I’ve committed my life to this hospital, it’s time that the administration values it.”

Butler Hospital is the premiere mental health facility in the region, providing a wide array both inpatient and outpatient mental health services to adolescent, adult and geriatric populations that can necessitate weeks of in-patient stays. Given Butler’s congregate setting, emergence of community-spread COVID-19 among staff and patients, and vulnerable populations served, the CDC recommends full PPE for all health care professionals which includes those “not directly involved in patient care, but who could be exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted in the healthcare setting (e.g., clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, engineering and facilities management, administrative, billing, and volunteer personnel)” to stem the spread of the virus.

“I’m very concerned about management’s unwillingness to follow the CDC guidelines to safeguard employees’ health during this pandemic, and their failure to protect direct care service workers,” said Anthony Maselli, a Dietary worker. “This is personal for me because I am HIV-positive and at higher risk for COVID-19 infection and complications. I spent half a paycheck purchasing my own stock of N95 respirators from private sellers on the internet because the hospital wouldn’t provide me with even one. There are a lot of other workers like me, with underlying conditions, who do not want to be out on leave – we want to be here, serving our patients because this work is our calling.

“As a nurse and medical professional, I hold the CDC and DOH recommendations to high regard – both sources say that testing and Personal Protective Equipment for direct care staff are the two most important factors in getting ahead of this virus,” said Ashley Ouellette, Registered Nurse, “As a congregate setting, we see the writing on the wall as the numbers of infection and death continue to grow in congregate settings like nursing homes. Butler administration needs to provide ALL staff with PPE so that we can stay healthy and keep providing mental health services at a time when Rhode Islanders need us now more than ever.”


Can we please ask a favor?

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take unprecedented toll on virtually every aspect of life for Rhode Island citizens, the need to support mental health services and those who provide it could not be greater. “As staff members at an acute care psych facility, we work here because this is our calling and the skill and experience we have gained is very specific – it can’t be simply transferred to temporary staff to fill in our place,” continued Ouellette ,”If we get sick and can’t come to work, who will perform the critically important mental health services to Rhode Islanders at such a trying time as this?”

Butler Hospital employs approximately 900 employees, 600 of whom are represented by SEIU Healthcare 1199.