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Healthcare workers worry local hospitals are putting patients at risk

Multiple healthcare workers say N-95 masks are not readily available.

ST. LOUIS — Speaking exclusively with 5 On Your Side, healthcare workers revealed a major concern. They believe hospitals aren't taking the proper steps to protect employees from COVID-19.

Their main worry is that without proper precautions, the virus could spread to more patients throughout the hospital, including some who are immuno-compromised.

Those healthcare workers said hospital managers at BJC HealthCare are locking up masks and making workers ask for permission to use them. 

RELATED: St. Louis area hospitals to halt elective procedures starting March 23 to focus on coronavirus

Other employees said they were exposed to patients who could've had COVID-19 but were told to wear a surgical mask instead of an N-95 mask.

The CDC did recently change its guidelines saying surgical masks were okay to wear around COVID-19 patients. Healthcare workers said they worry the CDC made that decision because there is a shortage of the N-95 masks currently recommended by the World Health Organization.

For fear of losing their jobs, the employees did not want to go on camera and did not want their names revealed.

"If hospitals are advising staff to wear surgical masks around someone with COVID-19, they are directly contributing to community exposure," one employee told 5 On Your Side's Brandon Merano.

"What I would like to see is just allowing people to wear the proper equipment right now, just so we don't potentially spread it to our patients and other people," said another healthcare employee. 

"They're focused on the health and safety of all their employees and they'll continue following CDC guidelines," a spokesperson for SSM Health said. 

5 On Your Side has not heard back from BJC about the complaints. 

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