On May Day I spoke with Temple University Hospital Radiology Tech Celeste-Bevans about her union’s Solidarity protest to raise awareness to the conditions health care workers face on the job and to discuss whether Pennsylvania is ready to reopen given the number of COVID-19 cases still growing. During our conversation we find out that workers are not being tested properly and the tests are giving a high percentage of false results.

After speaking with Celeste I cannot help but feel that our policy makers are being forced into a rushed reopening that is going to cost people their lives. Sadly, we are not ahead of this virus and by rushing we will only make it worse in the long run.

Listen to my discussion with Celeste HERE

Rick Smith: This afternoon (May 1, 2020) in Philadelphia, hundreds of healthcare workers rallied outside of Temple University Hospital to demand safe working conditions, not just for themselves, but also for their patients and their families. This is the kind of stuff we are seeing going on all around the country today.

People are saying, look, we demand safer workplaces. All the folks on the street today were members of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff, Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASnap), the Temple University Hospital Nurses Association, the Jeanes Hospital Nurses Association, and the Association of Temple University as well as AFSCME 1199C.

We need these Unions, these workers to be the voice for those who don’t have a voice. Here to share some thoughts on what happened today. I’ve asked Celeste Bevins to come talk with us. She’s a radiology tech at Temple University Hospital. She was on the ground.

She’s the vice president of tap and peace snap. Celeste, thanks for taking time for us.

Celeste Bevans: I’m Good

Rick Smith: So tell me what happened today. What were you guys doing?

Celeste Bevans: With today’s celebration of May Day we launched a show of solidarity, especially for those that are being affected by COVID-19 by the pandemic, either economically or with their health.

So we have reached out to other labor leaders and legislators to see on how they can help the healthcare workers, especially in the frontline to help to protect us so that we don’t continue to infect our families. Trying to also flatten the curve of the COVID-19 now that we are going to be reopening a lot of businesses. Our public university hospital is failing to get the adequate PPE ttill to this point. I’m faced with those same problems of not having the adequate protections for our employees. Now beginning the week of May 4th, Monday, they’re going to start having the elective surgery unit open. Our cry is to take a second look at what we’re doing for the community and they are still failing to protect the frontline essential workers.

Rick Smith: Doesn’t it make some sense on a certain level before you start opening up elective surgeries and things that you’re doing just because you can, that you would make sure that you have all of the things that you need to take care of those people who absolutely need the help. I mean, it just seems kind of shortsighted to me.

Celeste Bevans:  Right?  We didn’t find out until that information until recently. Thursday, we find out that come Monday, we were going to start swabbing or testing patients to have them ready for surgery on Wednesday. We were trying to find out middle ground on how we were going to help assist as a union worker, how we were going to assist Temple Hospital on how to get more beds available for COVID-19 patients to come in, where we can treat them.  In reality, what they were doing is getting our assistance to try to have those beds empty for the future elective surgeries.  They’re going to have outpatient surgeries, which is basically taking care of the bottom line of the hospital and not the front line.

Rick Smith: That’s perfect. It’s always profits over people. Here’s the thing. If you’re going in for an elective surgery do you want to go into a place where maybe the frontline workers aren’t protected, and you may end up being exposed to this?  This is one of those weird moments where the hospital’s supposed to be where you go to get, well, not to be infected.

Celeste Bevans: And that is the biggest problem in the biggest campaign in which our rally stems from.  What started off as a solidarity March turned into more of a protest rally because of the new developments around elective surgery, we’re going to start as early as Wednesday.  We were not having our employees that were either asymptomatic or symptomatic being tested at our facility. So if you were a healthcare worker and you were treating a COVID patient and you came down with symptoms, they weren’t testing you. They were saying that we didn’t have enough testing, they were basically rationing the tests for employees and rationing also the PPEs.

So, yeah, it’s a big concern when you’re coming into the hospital where you’re supposed to come to have surgery. You’re symptom free. You’re coming to the hospital. Although Temple Hospital has another building for the COVID patients so many of the employees are not being tested and they can’t give data, data that they don’t have.  Testing gives them data, it gives us numbers.

The last I checked, I think we were higher than 180 infected employees of the ones that they checked. Our tests are about 40% inaccurate, which is not good. A lot of the tests are false negatives. So you could be walking around, still spreading virus.  Supposedly we didn’t have enough testing to test our own employees, but they have the tests for future patients that are going to be done as early as Wednesday. So that’s the proof. The testing is there. The supplies are there. They’re just not being used for the employees. Right?

So although you can be negative, that doesn’t mean that the health care worker who’s going to be by your side isn’t positive or, or doesn’t have symptoms because they’re not being tested.

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