A group of nightshift nurses and staff from UAB hospital held a brief protest on Labor Day evening, protesting poor working conditions and unequal compensation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
UAB Hospital is caring for 162 COVID-19 inpatients, with an additional 53 patients who were admitted with COVID-19 and are recovering within the hospital, according to a UAB spokesperson.
“A lot of us have worked through both Covid surges. This is round two. It’s been very overwhelming, just like the last one,” a nurse said in an interview with Birmingham’s NBC13 Monday night. “We board 50-plus patients here in the ER, while we’re still expected to work at max capacity, as well as being understaffed. So all we’re trying to do is get equal compensation like the rest of the hospital because we are the front line. We see all the COVID patients first before they go upstairs.”
The group gathered outside the main entrance to University Hospital in Birmingham Monday evening. According to the group, the daytime shift worked overtime to allow the staff and nurses to protest outside the hospital. The group insisted that no patient was left unattended during the protest.
“We love what we do. We love our patients, and we want to continue to fight and care for our patients,” another nurse said to NBC13. “We just want to be equally compensated and treated correctly.”
Hospitals nationwide are experiencing staff and nurse shortages due to the pandemic. In Alabama specifically, salary is cited by the Alabama State Nurses Association as a leading reason for the shortage.
“This is really a global issue, especially here in the state of Alabama,” said Alabama State Nurses Association President Lindsey Harris during the protest, mentioning that Alabama nurses are paid 8 percent less than nurses in surrounding states.
“Hospitals need help. Hospitals need more nurses,” Harris said. “At some point, we have to think about our staff that are here, our staff that are permanent, our staff that are here every day.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently announced $12.3 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund will be allocated to hire temporary nurses to combat the shortage of staff in Alabama hospitals.