CPEPR president decries shortage of personal protective equipment for nurses

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Amid the government assigning an additional $150 million to hospitals in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Puerto Rico Nursing Professionals Association (CPEPR by its Spanish initials) President Ana García Cintrón said Wednesday during a Radio Isla interview that nurses in various island hospitals are short on personal protective equipment (PPE) as the impact of COVID-19 cases in Puerto Rico has been “swift and very negative.”

When journalist Julio Rivera Saniel on the program “Pegaos en la mañana” asked how nurses are fighting against COVID-19 and the steady increase in positive cases, García Cintrón said that even though hospitals have received financial aid to address the emergency, their administrations have not provided supplies to protect their nursing staff.

“Believe it or not, we are still short on materials for our country’s nurses. We are short on face mask coverings, coats and gloves,” García Cintrón said. “Even though they gave incentives to hospitals, they have not provided any materials to the nurses. There are hospitals that have even prevented us from bringing supplies to the nurses. We don’t understand why they would do something like this.”

CPEPR president said further that hospitals “are not letting us stand by the door to provide materials to nurses.”

“This is incomprehensible,” she said.

Another concern raised by García Cintrón was that nurses are not getting tested for COVID-19 despite being the first in line to fight against the disease caused by the coronavirus and care for citizens who are infected.

“Another issue is that there is no monitoring of COVID-19 screenings for nurses; we have to take care of our nurses so they are able to look after others, and they’re not doing it,” García Cintrón said. “Nursing professionals feel more anxiety and fear, many things are happening within the nursing field and with patients, but we will still guarantee our service.”

Pleased with wage hikes, but expecting more inclusion

As for the bill signed into law recently by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced to increase nurse practitioners’ wages in both the public and private sector, García Cintrón said she felt relieved because the field had not seen a raise since 2005. However, she added, around five categories were left out of the raise.

“Nurses with specialist and advanced practice master’s degrees were left out, anesthesiologists and nursing practitioners were also left out,” she said. “As for the doctorates, three categories were not included, such as advanced practice, DNP [doctor of nursing practice] and specialists.”

At press time, Nancy Báez, a nurse who worked at HIMA San Pablo Hospital in Bayamón, had become the sixth nurse in Puerto Rico to pass away due to complications from COVID-19, according to data provided by the College of Licensed Practical Nursing in San Juan.

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