Oakland, CA – The Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) has located 39 million critically needed N95 masks and is connecting states, counties, health systems and individual hospitals to the supplier so they can purchase them in quantity.
The 3M™ N95 masks (model 1860) are cleared for use as surgical masks and are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The union launched an exhaustive search for masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) last week in response to pleas from frontline healthcare workers that they need more protection and feel unsafe on the job as they treat the growing number of COVID-19 patients. SEIU-UHW has 97,000 members who work in hospitals across California.
Within 48 hours of painstakingly calling leads and potential suppliers, the union discovered a distributor who had the 39 million masks, and has since found another supplier who says his company can produce 20 million more masks a week. The union also has found a supplier who can deliver millions of face shields.
HEALTHCARE WORKERS DESPERATE FOR PROTECTION
“SEIU-UHW members and healthcare workers all over California are desperate for more protection, so we are seeking out supplies wherever we can get them,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW.
“We are continuing to turn over every rock to see if we can find more personal protective equipment to make sure that healthcare workers, who are heroically putting their own health on the line to care for patients, can do their jobs as safely as possible,” he said.
WORKING WITH STATES, COUNTIES AND HOSPITALS
SEIU-UHW is working with the states, counties and hospitals to determine realistically the quantities they need, and then connecting their procurement officers directly to the supplier to arrange the purchase. The masks are $5 each, and the union has no financial interest in the transactions. The masks are being distributed to unionized and non-unionized facilities alike.
“We want the masks to be distributed as widely as possible. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough to go beyond California and New York, and so far hospitals in Arizona have not responded to an offer of two million masks, but as we locate more masks we want to expand the circulation as much as possible,” Regan said.
“While we are pleased with these initial results, we recognize they are stopgap measures in light of the estimated 3.5 billion masks that could be needed during this pandemic. We urgently need the federal government to step in and drive a coordinated national response to the PPE shortage.”