Guardian: ‘Many of us have PTSD as 700 nurses strike over COVID fears

Pennsylvania strike is the latest in a wave of healthcare worker protests over low pay, understaffing and PPE shortages

Nurses and supporters rally in front of Montefiore medical center in the Bronx, New York, on 19 November. Photograph: Seth Wenig/AP

Guardian: Jim Gentile is haunted by the patients who died alone. A surgical nurse at St Mary medical center in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, his hospital was quickly overwhelmed during the first wave of the pandemic this spring, he said. He described racing between patients, only to discover that one had quietly suffocated while awaiting help.

He said he wrapped more patients in body bags in the first two months of the pandemic than he had in the previous 25 years. On Tuesday, he and 700 other nurses at the medical center went on strike after saying they were poorly compensated and short-staffed despite all they had to deal with as the virus surges again.

“Many of us have PTSD, and many of us would just sob on the way home,” he said. “And then 10 hours later we’d get back on the horse and do it all over again.”

Gentile and his colleagues are the latest in a wave of healthcare workers – from Washington DC, to New York, to California – to protest low pay, understaffing and PPE shortages during the pandemic.

Adding to their challenges is the politicization of Covid-19. Dozens of states have been slow to implement mask mandates and other public health measures that could slow the spread of the virus, and healthcare workers have reported cases of patients believing the illness to be a hoax even as they were being intubated. In North Dakota, nurses infected with the virus who did not show symptoms were asked to continue working amid staffing shortages.

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