She is known as New York’s patron saint of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Rhonda Shearer’s charity gives out PPE to New York hospital staff each week.
She was frustrated to see workers struggle to get PPE and decided to buy supplies herself and hand them out.
“We treat non-medical staff just like medical staff, because they’re the working people,” Shearer told Al Jazeera.
“The maintenance workers that are in the rooms of COVID patients, picking up the trash, bringing lunch, but yet they’re considered non-medical workers, and I don’t agree with this. Anybody with a hospital ID gets free PPE. “
Nationwide, the shortage of personal protective equipment has left many front-line medical workers to fend for themselves amid the continuing crisis.
In mid-March, President Donald Trump advised the country governors to “try to get it yourself”, forcing states and hospitals into competition with one another for lifesaving PPE.
The handout lines were long, some of them going around the block.
Everyone in line was either from the city-run Kings County Hospital or the state-run University Hospital of Brooklyn.
Both hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and serve a low-income neighborhood. Some nurses showed up wearing rubber gas masks they bought in hardware stores.
Shearer is not alone. Her project, called Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes, is a partnership with Housing Works, a New York-based nonprofit serving the homeless and people with HIV / AIDS.
Shearer and her then-husband were the group’s first benefactors in 1990.
Shearer’s goal with the PPE is to bypass an equipment distribution system that she believes is failing workers on the front lines, nonprofit workers and the homeless.
The supplies have cost Shearer more than half a million dollars which she raised through a loan on her New York City apartment.
“Overall it’s not enough,” Emmanuel Adomfeh, a medical worker, told Al Jazeera. “There’s not enough everywhere you go. Hospitals, we need more. So it’s definitely something that’s very much appreciated.”
This report was produced and edited by Al Jazeera NewsFeed’s Hassan Ghani.
Source: Al Jazeera