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Atlanta VA Medical Center workers: We lack sufficient protection

They blame CDC guidelines which allow medical facilities to ration and re-use masks

DECATUR, Ga. — Health care workers at the Atlanta VA Medical Center say the hospital is withholding gear that they need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.  

They made their case publicly outside the Clairmont Road campus on Friday.

"We don’t have adequate personal protective equipment needed to provide safe care," said Florence Uzegbunam, a VA nurse of 17 years. 

Uzegbunam was among about a dozen health care workers and supporters who carried signs and publicly pleaded with staff at the Atlanta VA facility to allow them to have access to more protective equipment.

"Nurses are being rationed the equipment," Uzegbunam said. "They don’t have proper equipment to take care of the veterans."

In particular, they want to be able to consistently wear N95 respirators -- a more protective mask than the less-expensive surgical masks many of them wore as they gathered outside the hospital.  

The Atlanta VA Medical Center says it has had 102 cases of COVID-19 with five inpatient deaths. 

Nurses say those not diagnosed at the center are still potentially at risk. 

"Unless you're dealing with a positive COVID patient, (the VA says) you will use a surgical mask," said 17-year nurse Dana Horton.  "And that’s the problem that we have. Asymptomatic people can be carriers. So to protect everybody, all health care workers should have adequate M95s."

Officials at the Atlanta VA Medical Center don’t dispute that it’s managing its supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

RELATED: Real-time updates | More than 17,000 confirmed cases reported with 650 deaths in Georgia

“We are providing daily or weekly PPE based on each employee’s responsibility and potential exposure to the virus,” the VA said in a statement. “Not every healthcare worker will need the same quantity and type of PPE.”

The protestors partly blame the CDC for issuing new guidelines that allow health providers to ration the higher-end masks  -- and even re-use them to a limited extent -- when supplies are short. 

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information. 

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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