Pinellas health care workers lament COVID-19 shortfalls to Charlie Crist
charlie Crist is touting federal funding to help keep Pinellas buses on time.

charlie crist
Concerns included staffing and PPE shortages, lack of tests and the mental toll of the pandemic on front line workers. 

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist held a virtual conference with Pinellas County health care workers Tuesday to discuss the challenges they are facing in the current pandemic.

The health care workers voiced specific concerns about handling the pandemic, including staffing and PPE shortages, lack of tests and the mental toll of the pandemic on front line workers.

Registered nurse Denise Belville, President of the Home Care Association of Florida, expressed concern for the lack of testing support and PPE in the home health care community.

Belville said the home health care community has been bypassed as far as testing equipment. She said home care organizations did not receive any of the 400,000 tests the federal government is providing the state per week.

“We still have providers throughout the state of Florida who are paying upward of $10 a piece for an N-95, which just seems just absurd that we would still be paying such high costs for such an important part of what we provide every day,” Belville said “We don’t have those supplies available to get gowns, to get masks, to get gloves; all just basic PPE are still not available for us to provide service, so that still continues to be an ongoing challenge.”

Dr. Larry Feinman, chief medical officer for HCA hospitals in West Florida, which is made up of 15 hospitals, said he worries hospitals are no longer seeing the rapid decline they were enjoying even just a couple weeks ago, and cases have seemed to plateau.

“I would have hoped that at this point the numbers would continue to fall but they’re not,” Feinman said. “I am very concerned about a second wave now that the schools are open.”

Feinman also emphasized the importance of masks, supporting a mask mandate and attributing the decline in cases to that precaution.

I personally and professionally believe we need to continue with our mask mandates,” he said. “We let our guard down, we are gonna see a very strong second wave.”

Keosha Morris, a registered nurse at Largo Medical Center, talked about the strain of staffing and PPE shortages, discussing how hospitals are rationing PPE.

“We already in health care struggle with staffing issues,” Morris, who is a member of National Nurses United, said. “As a nurse, we get stressed, and we are emotionally attached to our patients, even if we’ve only known them for one or two days, we’ve met them, we’ve met their family, and we know we have obligations to do everything that we can for them.”

Carrie Hawkins, nurse executive at Bay Pines VA, talked about finding a new normal.

“Really, COVID has affected our operations, completely in every single area and inpatient and an outpatient, and now we are trying to find our new normal,” Hawkins said. “Because we’re experiencing a small uptick in our COVID positive patients I think we’re really going to have to focus on staff morale and engagement because I can feel the staff getting a little tired.”

Crist ended the meeting thanking the workers, and reflecting on his father, who was a family physician in Pinellas.

“My father, who was a family doctor here for 55 years, used to tell my three sisters and me that God gave you two ears and one mouth,” Crist said. “And it’s important to respect his ratio and listen as much as you talk, and I try to do that.”

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].

One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    October 14, 2020 at 5:10 am

    We need to listen to our health care providers! These folks are on the frontlines of the goptrump cult policy of Herd immunity! The perverted demand of the goptrump cult to committ suicide and murder to stop the trumpvirus! Herd immunity ! Omg! Vote Democrat up and down ballot for our lives!

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