SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — “That is why we are asking for protections now because we don’t have the staff to make up for all the absences,” Ashley Erb said.

California nurses are on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, saying they are not getting the proper protections to prevent them from getting COVID-19.

They say if they get sick and can’t work, nursing shortages would cripple the healthcare system during this critical time.

“We are going to have a shortage of nurses if they continue these practices because everyone is going to be sick and then be at home,” Erb said. “And then what happens?”

What happens would be detrimental to the healthcare system says members of National Nurses United Union. They represent 150,000 nurses nationwide.

Now they are expressing concerns over their employers handling of coronavirus cases.

Starting with being notified in a timely fashion to their exposure to a suspected or confirmed coronavirus patient.

They also said they do not have access to enough protective equipment like gowns and gloves.

“We have had nurses call supervisors to ask for masks and they are being told no sometimes,” Erb said.

The nurses who work at Sutter Health CPMC Van Ness Campus said they are told it is a matter of limited supply.

So the nurses made a poignant plea.

“If you have any equipment and N-95 masks the hospitals really need it so we are accepting donations if possible,” Anna Martinez said.

Other than gear, along with protocols to protect themselves — the nurses want California hospitals to follow CAL OSHA tougher guidelines for airborne illness, which superseded the CDC’s requirements.

They want access to “the highest level of protection” for nurses on the front lines.

“We are not going to refuse care so what this means is putting us at risk for vectors for the disease and for getting ill ourselves,” Erb said.

In response, Sutter Health said during this unprecedented healthcare crisis it working to distribute protective gear carefully and appropriate by following CDC guidelines.

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