coronavirus illinois

UIC Employees Seek More Protections After 2 Colleagues Die of COVID-19

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Colleagues and loved ones are in mourning after employees at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center died after contracting coronavirus.

“We’re faced with our friends, our colleagues dying. And it’s horrible,” RN Doris Carroll, vice president of the Illinois Nurses Association, said. “We’ve been crying for days.”

A nurse at UIC for 37 years, Carroll says that two of her co-workers have passed away recently because of the virus, and both of their deaths have been painful for everyone at the hospital.

“Who’s protecting nurses? That’s what I want to know,” she said.

Joyce LeBlanc passed away last Thursday after contracting the virus, and her husband is left wondering how to cope with her death.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with it,” he said.

Lawrence described his wife as “unforgettable.”

“She had a smile that would light up any room,” he said. “The best human being that you would ever want to meet. She was my best friend, and the best wife that any man could ask for.”

On Wednesday, the hospital’s CEO sent out a message to staff about the death of a second employee, Juan Martinez Sr., who passed away because of the illness.

According to the email, Martinez was a technician in the Materials Management department, having worked both in the operating room and sterile processing department for nearly 20 years while working at the hospital.

“He was going to retire tomorrow,” Juan Martinez Jr. said of his father. “Tomorrow would have been 20 years at this hospital. He was scheduled to retire May 1. He thought it was important to come in to help patients.”

Martinez’s son described him as a man full of “charisma and personality” in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, saying that there was no one quite like his father.

“My dad was such a lovable person,” he said. “He could just make friends on the spot, just like that.”

After the deaths of LeBlanc and Martinez, the hospital’s employee union is demanding universal PPE for all works, and universal free testing, among other changes they want to see implemented.

“People are really afraid, and that’s what I’m saying to UIC,” SEIU President Dian Palmer said. “Our members are very afraid.”

In a statement, the hospital says it has issued guidance for the proper use of PPE as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, and says that in “some cases” they have implemented measures beyond CDC guidelines.

The statement read, in part:

“We continue to monitor the guidelines and our supplies to ensure that we are well prepared to care for patients and staff today and in the future. We understand the fear our nurses are experiencing in these unprecedented times, but it is critical that scientific evidence and guidelines set by local and national public health experts drive our decisions, as they have since the start of the pandemic.”

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