This story was updated Friday, April 17, to include the delivery of an additional 50,000 masks for a total of 100,000. More to come! Please consider a donation to the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund to support these efforts.
Three groups of downstate health care professionals got a welcome delivery in April.
Thanks to generous member donations to the NYSUT Disaster Relief fund, the statewide union purchased and delivered 50,000 surgical masks to members at the Long Island Community Hospital; the Saint Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Suffolk County; and to the Visiting Nurse Service of New York in Manhattan. SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University; Stony Brook University Hospital; NYU Langone in Brooklyn; and Staten Island University Hospital shared a delivery of an additional 50,000 masks.
“Our health care members are working in unimaginable conditions right now,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “We wanted to find a tangible way to let them know their union is there for them.”
“Since New York City and Long Island are hot spots, we felt we could do the most immediate good in those areas,” said Philippe Abraham, NYSUT secretary-treasurer, whose office heads the Disaster Relief Fund. “But this is just a start — we are currently working to provide even more assistance for our members on the front line.”
After working with local NYSUT representatives to determine need, Veronica Foley, NYSUT’s assistant in health & safety and health care, got to work finding a reliable vendor for the masks. Although NYSUT sought to purchase National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certified N95 respirator masks — which provide the best protection and are the most needed — finding a source the union could trust was difficult, given the scarcity of supplies.
“Since lots of providers have come out of the woodwork due to shortages, it’s creating a grey market for personal protective equipment,” said Foley. “While we wanted to get masks into the hands of our members as quickly as possible, we also wanted to make sure that whatever we provided were quality supplies.”
The union settled on surgical ear-loop masks with three layers of non-woven polypropylene fabric, which “have a number of uses and should help lower the spread of the virus for anyone working in the hospital,” explained Foley. She noted that if true NIOSH-certified N95 masks had been available, the union would have purchased those.
Both members and hospital administrators welcomed the PPE. “We were greeted by folks from human resources, the hospital’s CEO and the chief nursing officer, when we arrived to drop off the supplies at Long Island Community Hospital,” said Michael Krauthamer, an LRS with the Suffolk Regional office who works with the two hospital locals. “They wanted to come and express their gratitude.”
Members at the Saint Catherine of Siena Medical Center are represented by the Saint Catherines Federation of Health Professionals; VNS members by the United Federation of Teachers. NYSUT members at the Long Island Community Hospital are represented by Brookhaven Health Professionals. SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and Stony Brook University Hospital members are represented by United University Professions.
As NYSUT members across the state risk their lives serving on the front lines in hospitals and other health care facilities statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic, NYSUT urges members to donate to the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund. All proceeds will go directly toward purchasing and providing PPE, food and other supplies for health care workers.