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Healthcare workers raise concerns about shortage of personal protective equipment

Employees said their biggest concern is that the coronavirus could spread, including those who are immunocompromised

ST. LOUIS — Healthcare workers in Missouri, Illinois and across the country are raising concerns that they don’t have enough of the proper equipment to protect employees and patients from the spread of COVID-19. That includes protecting those most vulnerable to the virus: the immunocompromised.

5 On Your Side’s Brandon Merano first reported last week after concerned healthcare workers reached out to say hospital staff members were locking up protective masks and telling employees they needed to “request permission” to use them.

READ MORE: Healthcare workers worry local hospitals are putting patients at risk

“The problem started maybe two weeks ago when we weren’t testing anybody,” said one healthcare worker. “They say they are complying by the CDC guidelines, but that’s not entirely true because there were patients who should’ve been tested but weren’t.”

Healthcare workers said hospital administration is to blame.

“There were doctors who wanted to test, but they were told no,” one worker told 5 On Your Side.

Then, workers added that there’s an issue with hospital staff members not having the proper personal protective equipment.

“What do employees hear from management when they ask for those things?” 5 On Your Side’s Brandon Merano asked one employee.

“That they don’t have it, or it’s locked up in so-and-so’s office. I have to basically beg for that,” the worker replied.

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"When we secure N-95 masks, we're trying to make sure they're kept in a place where those people in Intensive Care Units or caring for people with ventilators are doing procedures on people who are known or suspected of having COVID-19, that those masks are for those people," said BJC and Washington University Chief Nurse Executive Denise Murphy.

BJC and Washington University also have decided to test their employees in house.

"Those patients who may have been exposed or show symptoms, we can provide testing internally, so we can get those results rapidly," said Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Hilary Babcock.

RELATED: Homemade masks not an option in St. Louis area hospitals, but groups are sewing them up just in case

Employees said their biggest concern is that the coronavirus could spread to other patients, including those who are immunocompromised.

“If you talk to any healthcare worker, that is their major worry,” the employee said.

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