CAPE ELIZABETH — I am a registered nurse. I have been a nurse for a very long time. I am appalled by the lack of personal protection equipment available to me and my co-workers. I have worked in many health care settings, and never have my health and my life been at risk like they are now.

I am appalled that we are not given the bare essentials to protect ourselves while caring for others. Did you know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide all their workers with PPE?

Every day of my life for the last few weeks, going in to work has been like playing Russian roulette. Neither I nor my co-workers, whether they be nurses, doctors, therapists, technicians or other health care workers, know any day whether we will be bringing home a deadly virus to ourselves or our families. I have had my will updated because I don’t know if I will survive this pandemic.

Every year, health care workers have to complete training for pandemic situations, including who to look for direction, where a command center will be set up and how best to serve our community. Why did none of the health care corporations do their job and have adequate supplies on hand in the event of a pandemic? From what I read and see, none of them prepared as they were supposed to – none of them. Until yesterday I wasn’t even allowed to wear a paper mask while seeing patients. No social distancing for us. However, our managers are staying home and working remotely, so they are protected while they lecture us on how much they are thinking of our welfare by allowing us now to use one mask per day in order to preserve their stockpile for future use.

Why are our lives so much less valuable than theirs that they and the doctors and nurses in management quarantine themselves at home while we are out there trying to save the lives of the sick without the appropriate PPE? A mask is disposable, made to be replaced every one to two hours or when moist or wet. We are shamed for asking for an N95 mask. Nurses in New York are using garbage bags because they don’t have gowns. Really, is this why 40 percent of my pay in taxes goes to a government that can’t provide basic supplies needed to survive? We are the USA, right? Then why are we having to work in Third World circumstances?

Members of Congress and senators make six-figure salaries – why can’t they donate their pay to get us the supplies we need? Basic masks, face shields, gowns, gloves and medications. I am asking every American to write their elected officials and challenge them to come work with a health care worker for a day, using what we have available to protect our lives. Then maybe, just maybe, our government, whether state or federal, will understand what it means to leave for work not knowing if your health and the health of your spouse, children, parents will be threatened – and if you will be responsible for their deaths from the virus you brought into your home because some bigwig was too cheap to purchase the PPE they were obligated to obtain but decided not to in order to skimp on what was believed to be a waste of money. After all, how much does the average nurse or hospitalist make compared to the CEOs of these major medical institutions?

So again I say, how happy would you be leaving for work, kissing your loved ones goodbye knowing you are playing Russian roulette? The next time you see a nurse, doctor or health care worker, say “thank you.” Despite all of this we all still show up for work every day. Please help us, just maybe you all can make the difference. I am asking you to write or call both federal and state government representatives, and if they don’t answer, vote them out of office!

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