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UNM: Workers not disciplined for raising PPE concerns

N-95 masks are disinfected at the University of New Mexico Hospital. (Courtesy of UNM Health Sciences Center)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico Hospital officials said no employee was disciplined for raising concerns about protective equipment during a protest and in interviews last week.

Several employees gave interviews and about 60 of them protested outside the hospital over working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many expressed concerns about the hospital’s supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

After those interviews, some of the employees received letters warning that they could face disciplinary action if they continued to speak to the media.

Alex Sanchez, a spokeswoman for UNMH, said officials will work to ensure there is clear understanding of what the hospital’s policy is on media interviews. Employees must get approval before speaking to the media on behalf of the hospital, but the policy does not restrict an employee from speaking about their personal opinions, she said.

“We recognize and support our employees in having a voice. When it comes to interaction with the media, we are currently reviewing our long-established policies to ensure there is no misunderstanding of any employee’s right to speak about their private opinions on matters of public importance,” she said.

On Monday, UNM Health and the Presbyterian and Lovelace health systems issued a joint news release saying the hospitals are following guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and other states and countries on the protective equipment.

That includes saving the equipment so that it can be disinfected and reused.

“PPE plays a critical role in keeping our workforce and patients safe. Photos of nurses with markings from masks worn for the entirety of a 12-hour shift, makeshift gowns made out of trash bags or other materials at out-of-state hospitals that do not have supplies are situations that we can avoid through disinfection for reuse,” the hospitals said in the release. “By making responsible decisions now to conserve materials, we can ensure our teams and communities stay protected.”

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