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Dignity Health responds to SEIU-UHW accusations regarding PPE for security officers

Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers West is claiming leadership with Mercy Hospital Downtown directed security officers to share face coverings with each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the hospital is saying that's completely false.

In a Monday advertisement, the union claimed the healthcare provider put patients and workers at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robin Mangarin-Scott, vice president of marketing and communications for Dignity Health Central California, responded to those assertions on Monday.

“The bottom line is that it’s completely false,” she said.

Mangarin-Scott said that Cal/OSHA and the hospital’s employee health manager reported no complaints were received alleging that face coverings were shared among security officers. She said the only complaint that was filed during the COVID-19 pandemic was in April 2020, when it was reported that the hospital didn’t have adequate supply of PPE.

“Any complaints outside of that were just not made,” Mangarin-Scott said.

She added, “We would never have people re-use masks in our hospital."

The advertisement came in advance of a Tuesday news conference that will be put on by SEIU-UHW, where security officers from Dignity Health will address the alleged working conditions and lack of protections, according to a news release from SEIU-UHW.

The news conference, scheduled for 11:30 a.m., comes a day after SEIU-UHW filed a formal hazard complaint with Cal/OSHA related to the Dignity Health’s handling of the novel coronavirus, the news release stated.

Javier Chavez, who has worked as a security officer the past two years at Mercy Hospital Southwest, said he and his co-workers were asked to re-use facemasks and share face shields and goggles during 12-hour work shifts.

Chavez said similar activity also took place at Mercy Hospital Downtown.

He said the PPE mandates were in place for security officers in March or April of last year and lasted nearly two months. He said the officers begged for certain PPE and were told that such equipment wasn’t for security personnel.

He said the security officers didn’t bring their complaints forward then because they aren’t represented by a union.

“Our concern was, are we going to contract it and therefore give it to our families? I ended up giving it to both my son and my wife," Chavez said. "My son missed two weeks of unpaid work. My wife was out of work for 45 days.”

Bruce Peters, president and CEO of Mercy Hospital Southwest and Mercy Hospital Downtown, said Dignity Health has been consistent in its policies and procedures surrounding personal protective equipment with all of its staff.

He said the allegations are untrue and unsubstantiated.

“It doesn't make sense that we would pick one group of people among all of our employees," Peters said. "Clearly this is tied to other activities that SEIU has planned.”