Watch CBS News

Nurses In Chicago And Beyond To Hold Day Of Action, Call For Safe Staffing Levels And Protections Amid COVID-19 Surge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Some Chicago nurses say they will unite Thursday for a day of action to keep them, and you, safe in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As CBS 2's Charlie De Mar reported Wednesday night, nurses at some hospitals in Chicago and across the country will unite in the day of action. They want safe staffing levels and protections on the job.

De Mar spoke Wednesday night to a nurse who said she has been thinking about leaving the profession since the start of the pandemic.

Illinois continues to set records for new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Coronavirus-related deaths are reaching heights not seen in almost a year.

De Mar asked Marie Lafontant, a nurse at the University of Chicago Medical Center, how she is holding up personally.

"It's been challenging," Lafontant siad. "Emotionally and physically, it's had."

Lafontant, a nurse of nearly 40 years, has spent the last two decades at the U of C.

"When I first started as a young nurse, it was during the AIDS epidemic," she said. "But right now, this is the worst I have ever seen."

The veteran health care worker said this current pandemic has pushed her and some colleagues to their limits - and some have quit due to understaffing and safety concerns. The veteran nurse even considered leaving the job herself.

"We're constantly working short" Lafontant said. "We're angry because people are not taking precautions."

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike also emphasized the difficulties health care workers are now encountering.

"Our health care workers are burning the candle at both ends - and in the middle as well," she said.

Ezike said only 9 percent of ICU beds are available in Illinois — creating long wait times for anyone who needs a bed.

Brian Dunleavy brought his 83-year-old brother, Ed, to Northwestern Medicine Palos Hospital for a non-COVID issue - and says he waited 17 hours before he was treated.

"No one asked him if he was hungry - nothing," Dunleavy said. "He slept in a wheelchair, and he scrounged up from someone some potato chips.

"As nurses, we are constantly going out there and saying that we need more people at the bedside," added Lafontant.

The largest union representing nurses are also frustrated that certain Occupational Safety and Health Administration protections are set to expire for healthcare workers - and they also question the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on isolation times.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.