MUSKEGON, Mich. — A group of nurses, frontline workers and caregivers in Muskegon have one message: 'we’re tired and we need help.' Dozens of nurses and their supporters gathered in a parking lot near Mercy Health hospital, with candles and signs in tow, rallying to get their message out.
“We just want the community to know that it’s a safe environment for them,” said Fred Wyese during a Zoom interview before the rally Wednesday evening. “But also we could use some help, you know, have a little bit more responsiveness to our pleas for help.”
Wyese is a registered nurse at Mercy and he said they’re short staffed. Since the pandemic began in March, their need has been 'magnified.' He works in the ICU and said between March and June nurses received 1200 text messages requesting their help and, since June it's doubled. Mercy hired an agency to help them when cases spiked back in October, however it’s not enough, he said.
“You get tired,” Wyese said. “It’s hard to every shift go in and know that your load is going to be more, the acuity is high, and that you’re probably going to be asked to stay late, not just once or five times. There's a lot of feeling like there’s no resolution.”
He added that the personal protection equipment situation has gotten better. However, he’d like to see nurses and frontline workers get N-95 masks or the respirator-type masks.
Mercy Health released a statement saying that while “staffing remains a challenge they’ve brought in 80 agency staff to help the nurses and hired 78 additional employees since mid-October.”
The statement also read:
"Hospital leadership has been meeting regularly with union leadership and addressing concerns presented to us. More challenging times are ahead, but we have renewed hope with the approval of the first vaccines and the positive effect of COVID-19 precautions. We expect our first doses of the Pfizer vaccine as early as Friday, and will start vaccinating employees who volunteer to receive it, in order of priority as established by CDC and Michigan Department of Health & Human Services."
Wyese said ultimately he’d like to have a contract done with Mercy. It’s long overdue.
In the meantime, he reiterated that nurses and frontline workers need help now because they're exhausted.
“I love what I do,” Wyese said. “I love working with the patients, interacting with people, trying to help people. It’s just all the other stuff that drags you down and leads to stress. COVID in and of itself is a highly stressful situation, like nothing we’ve ever seen before. But then you put on perpetual short staffing, you know, it just wears you down.”
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