Archive for February, 2021

The Insane Scramble for Vaccine and how it can be corrupted.

February 11th, 2021 No comments

Two weeks ago, my husband Mike and I enthusiastically received our first Covid 19 vaccines.  I had spent hours online messing with a clunky website to find just the right time and place.  I lucked out.  We have spent months staying in our bubble, and following all of the precautionary rules when we dared to venture out.  Both of us were like 2 little kids at Christmas time going to get our shots.  We know it isn’t going to be a fast lane trip back to our normal lives, but it at least allows us to plan.  We are hoping for the absolutely best result for these vaccines. Our nurse was sharp, efficient and very clear with her instructions.

We have been very lucky throughout this pandemic.  We have a comfortable warm clean home.  We have all the food we need, and since we are retired, our income didn’t change. Most importantly, neither of us has gotten sick with COVID.  Other than extended isolation, we have nothing to complain about.  When I see the stories about loss, devastation and death on TV or in the newspapers, it breaks my heart.  Any and all of the faults in our society have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  Poverty, joblessness, healthcare inequity, loss of lives and livelihoods, and all the rest have been magnified.

And who takes care of the sickest and dying COVID patients? And who gives COVID vaccines?  Nurses do.   Nurses don’t care about being called heroes.  They just want the supplies and support to do the very important job they need to do.  They are doing that job selflessly. They are taking care of our human societal, physical and emotional messes, every single day.  Because COVID is so contagious and deadly, family members are not allowed to visit with horribly sick and sometimes dying patients.  So, the nurses step in.  Giving excellent, hygienic, compassionate, efficient and professional care isn’t enough during this pandemic.  Nurses are giving LOVE.  They are surrogate family members.  They give comfort, with touch, with words and yes, with tears.   Every molecule of nurses is being used during this pandemic.  Yet, those same nurses have sometimes been forced to work without proper protective equipment or adequate staffing levels. They have worked overtime, sometimes day after day. They risk their own health and that of their families. Most go home from work, worried about bringing COVID to their own families.  Some have lived in travel trailers, motel rooms, basements or garages, so they would not infect their own families.  Some of these self sacrificing nurses have become very sick.    Too many have even given their lives.  I coauthored the following blog with a fellow nurse, last April 2020.

Nurses lives are not negotiable

And yet………..this has happened.

Deaths of Healthcare workers.

Nurses at Maine Medical Center are organizing a union.  Their courage and activism is amazing.  In the mid 1980s I was instrumental in organizing a union in Calais Maine.  We had solid reasons to organize, mostly involving patient safety.  The purpose of this article is not to detail that, but suffice to say, nurses are stronger in a union.  And, patients are safer if their bedside nurses are organized and have a strong unified voice.

This week I read this op ed written by Bill Nemitz, in the Portland Press Herald.

Bill Nemitz Op ed about Maine Medical Center

He had received a tip that  contracted union busters at Maine Medical Center had been immunized there.  Now that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, on the face of it.  But, consider this.  We are in the middle of a pandemic.  Those union busters have been imported from out of State by MMC to stop the organizing efforts of the MMC nurses. Their right to organize is supported by Labor laws. The entire State is in a huge flux of trying to get our most vulnerable citizens vaccinated.  The efforts to vaccinate Maine started in December.  The promised amount of vaccine can’t be met.  The vaccine supply was exaggerated by the prior president’s administration.  So, understandably, Governor Mills and her State CDC officials have worked very hard to 1. vaccinate those at highest risk first, and 2. to be fair and equitable. With promises of eventual vaccine availability, they have been forced for now, to strictly reserve available vaccine for those at highest risk and for Maine citizens only.  The established levels of priority are according to greatest risk.  The first level was front line healthcare workers (workers who do patient facing work) and long term care/ assisted living residents.  They are definitely the highest risk for infection.  Maine Medical Center used their power, money and might and vaccinated all of their employees…there are 22,000 of them, and they included out of State contract employees, like the union busters.  And of course, once they get dose #1, then need dose #2.   44,000 doses of vaccine.  Doses were given to remote workers, to contract employees, to billing clerks and office workers.   I don’t have the final tally of doses used, but it is too high.  How many of those recipients never set foot in the same room with patients.  Too many.  And today I learned that not every front line nurse has gotten even their first dose!

How many of those doses should have gone into the arms of frail seniors, or other high risk Maine citizens.  The abuse of power and blatant elitism of this act is disgusting.  MMC did not have the right to do this, even though they had their hands on all of that vaccine.  If all of what I have seen and read about this is true, then this abuse of power that should be punishable by law.

But, it is done. And this is the ironic thing.  The nurses of MMC and from all around the country have been called heroes.  They don’t think of themselves that way. They do what nurses do.  They are no nonsense, self sacrificing and dedicated to their patients.  If asked, and if there was a need, most of those nurses would have given up their own vaccine for a vulnerable Maine senior, like me, or to someone else who was at a much higher risk of illness. I know this.  I know it, because when I was a  young nurse, I would have done the same and I know this because I know NURSES!  Nurses have given, and given, and given during this pandemic.  And they will give some more.  Every day, nurses around this country have held the hands of the dying COVID patients, while the voices of grieving family members come into the room virtually, on an IPAD or a cell phone.  The nurse gives the loving human touch that the families are not allowed to give because of the pandemic.  Safety comes first.   None of those nurses have ever seen the magnitude of suffering and death that this pandemic has brought, and yet they stay.  Some call this heroism.  I just call it being a nurse.

If you know a working nurse, thank her.  If you have a way to support the nurses of MMC, support them now.  If you have a need, they will be there for you.



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