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Aletha Browne on the lack of pay, staffing and PPE she endures as a CNA during the COVID-19 pandemic



Right now, people are quitting. People are calling out because they’re so scared to risk their family because they don’t have protective clothes at work.”

“Even though the virus played a big impact, the staffing was terrible from the beginning,” said Aletha Browne, a ward clerk/med tech at Pawtucket Skilled Nursing and Rehab speaking during an online rally in support of the Raise the Bar on Resident Care coalition. “When there’s a call out, they don’t call replacements… When we have four CNAs, we each have 10 patients… We don’t even take breaks.”

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“Even before the coronavirus, things were not good. The staffing is horrible. And now because of the virus, it’s even worse,” continued Browne.

“We come to work in the morning, we don’t even know if we’re going to have masks.

“They give everybody masks for three days. Wear one mask for three days. For example, you can see the kind of mask they give us. This is the kind they give us… You don’t have no protective clothes to work with.”

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See: Raise the Bar calls on RI nursing home industry to invest its millions in profit in frontline caregivers and residents amid pandemic

“Last week we went to the administrator to see if we could get help. At least $2 for people that risk their lives. [The administrator] laughed. She took the paper [with our demands], that was it. She wouldn’t say anything back to us. We still have one mask for three days.

“We risk our life to come here every day, just to make a difference. Of course we took our oath that we are available to take care of [the residents]. That’s certified nursing assistance, but we do not have protective clothing.

“Right now, people are quitting. People are calling out because they’re so scared to risk their family because they don’t have protective clothes at work.

“So please help the nursing home, especially with the pay, with the staffing and with the protective equipment. Our residents depend on every day and our families depend on every day. Some of us have three-year olds or five- year olds at home and we only have one mask for three days.

“Before this, everyone I know had two jobs. I personally had two jobs before, because I make less than what I am supposed to make. I can’t put food on the table. I’ve got kids in college. But because of the coronavirus right now, I had leave one job, because I can’t go from one job to [another] job. And the pay is horrible, even before the coronavirus, the pay and the staffing is horrible in Rhode Island. So please, we need help. We need help to take care of people. I still want them to be taken care of. Thank you.”

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.