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SUNDAY: CWA Catholic Health Workers Unveil “COVID HEROES WALL”

11 Oct, 2021

Media Advisory For: Sunday, October 10, 2021

SUNDAY: CWA Catholic Health Workers Unveil “COVID HEROES WALL”

The 10th day of the strike, strikers who worked through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic will share personal testimonials about what they faced

Almost 200 workers submitted photos and stories for the wall.

BUFFALO, NY -- Today at 1:00 pm ET outside of Mercy Hospital, Catholic Health workers will hold an “open mic” on the picket line where they will share their personal stories and testimonials of battling the COVID-19 pandemic within their hospitals. 

Dozens of workers have shared experiences of contracting the virus on the job due to scarcity of PPE, a lack of essential supplies to care for patients, and being thrown into situations where they were not fully trained for the work or had to care for an overwhelming number of patients due to Catholic Health’s staffing crisis.

A “COVID HEROES WALL” will be unveiled at the event featuring photos that workers took of themselves during the height of the pandemic alongside their quotes and stories, and photos honoring colleagues who were lost due to COVID-19. Almost 200 workers submitted photos and stories for the wall.

WHAT:Unveiling of “COVID HEROES WALL” with personal testimonials from Catholic Health staff who worked through the height of the pandemic.

WHEN:Sunday, October 10 at 1:00 pm ET

WHERE:Mercy Hospital, 565 Abbott Rd, Buffalo, NY 14220

Catholic Health workers on strike and their families
CWA Area Director Debora Hayes
CWA Local 1133 President Jackie Ettipio
Assemblymember Pat Burke
Local artists Brendan Bannon, Ariel Aberg-Riger

Community members are invited to leave notes, cards and artwork for striking workers on the wall. Local photographers and artists Brendan Bannon and Ariel Aberg-Riger are also teaming up with CWA to grow the wall into a powerful large-scale public art installation that will capture the stories of Mercy strikers.

Michael Coghlan, an x-ray technician at Mercy Hospital for 18 years, said he didn’t see most of his family or friends for six months. His job at Mercy Hospital was his first right out of high school, and he has been there ever since.

“Everyone had to have the proper protection with N95s, gowns, gloves and eye protection,” he said. “There was only so much to go around for everybody. We had to go get our own supplies for the department, and I had to look around other places in the hospital to find supplies. We had to lock up our N95 so no one would take it -- that's how limited we were as far as supplies goes. And of course, we had to reuse our masks for a certain amount of time, putting them in a paper bag.”

Corinne Webb, an RN on the medical surgery floor at Mercy Hospital for 15 years, had her unit become a COVID unit. She described the physical stress of staying safe within the hospital.

“We were in a very small 12-bed unit, which was pretty much wrapped in plastic, so there was no air going through there. We were in plastic gowns with no air conditioning,” she said. “Combined with wearing respirator masks, you were drenched in sweat the minute you walked on that unit. You could wring out your clothes, you had sweat sliding down inside your mask. You could not breathe, to the point where we were actually lifting and pulling our masks away from our faces because we were feeling I'm gonna pass out. Twelve hours in there with no breaks. We were dehydrated, and a few nurses vomited as a result, including me.”

Megan Parkinson, an RN at St. Joe’s for 16 years, described feeling ill-equipped to care for patients when the pandemic broke out.

“When the ER shut down during COVID, I became an ICU nurse. Normal training for ICU nurses is about six months of on-the-job training. We came in and did just a four-hour training,” she said. “I was terrified to take care of patients, especially hearing how sick these patients were. I walked out of there totally overwhelmed and terrified for my life -- I was afraid I was going to accidentally kill a patient. But I figured if I'm going to stay here, at least I'm going to be in this with my coworkers together. So I chose a stay.”