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L+M health care workers to demonstrate as COVID-19 cases among employees mount

New London — Lawrence + Memorial Hospital health care workers, concerned by the growing number of COVID-19 cases among hospital employees, plan to demonstrate outside the hospital Saturday afternoon to call attention to the situation and their push for more protective gear.

Organizers of the event are urging their co-workers and the general public to participate from 2 to 4 p.m. outside the hospital at 365 Montauk Ave.

Connie Fields, president of the L+M Hospital Health Care Workers Union, AFT Connecticut Local 5123, said Friday that more than 50 L+M employees have tested positive for the coronavirus disease since Sept. 11, the date she said cases began to spike. The number includes all hospital employees, union and nonunion, she said.

Fields said members of her union, who clean and sanitize patients’ rooms, transport patients and provide patients’ meals as well as secretarial and maintenance services, have been the hardest hit, sustaining about 70% of the cases. She said the union wants hospital management to issue N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, for all employees who come into contact with COVID-19 positive patients or are suspected of having the virus. While nurses are issued such PPE, workers who transport patients and deliver and retrieve meal trays from their rooms are not, she said.

“They continue to make bad decisions,” Fields said, referring to management.

In a statement late Friday afternoon, Fiona Phelan, an L+M spokeswoman, said 27 L+M employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past month. She said the hospital employs more than 2,300 people.

“The latest state Department of Public Health report indicates 175 new cases of COVID-19 in New London County in the past month, which is consistent with an uptick locally and statewide as our communities further reopen businesses and activities," she said. "As residents of the communities around us, L+M employees, like everyone else, face an increased risk of exposure to the virus.”

Phelan said the hospital is testing asympomatic staff members and immediately quarantining those who test positive.

“As we have throughout the pandemic, we continue to provide appropriate PPE to our staff,” she said. “Our infection prevention protocols and processes adhere to the strictest standards.”

L+M was treating 11 COVID-19 patients Friday. Westerly Hospital, which admitted its first COVID-19 patient in weeks on Thursday, had three Friday.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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