I work as a nurse at a trauma hospital in southern Arizona.
A few days ago, when I walked into work, a supervisor handed me a mask and told me I should try to wear it until it no longer seals. I held the mask and looked down at the words “one use only” printed on the outside. It made me feel worried and afraid, but I worked my shift anyway.
As our country scrambles to respond to COVID-19, my health care colleagues and I feel the strain of being severely under-resourced. We fear for our own health, and that of our patients, every shift.
Yet while hospitals struggle to secure protective gear, the Trump administration is funneling over $18 billion to work on a destructive border wall that will cut across our region. We need to stop this wall construction immediately — and use the money to protect health care workers instead.
In a recent survey by the Arizona Nurses Association, over three quarters of respondents said they did not have adequate personal protective equipment, or PPE. Other frontline workers in Arizona face similar challenges. The Phoenix fire department, for example, has begun to reuse PPE amid the crisis.
A few miles away from my hospital, where the Kiewit Construction company is building hundreds of miles of harmful walls, it’s another story. Kiewit and its subsidiaries have already pocketed more than $2 billion on these shameful walls, and the company continues getting raises from the Trump administration even with the crisis in full swing.
This colossal waste of resources couldn’t be clearer. We need these funds to keep our hospitals open and safe for patients and health care workers.
Each day that I show up at the hospital to help combat this pandemic, I do so knowing that the Trump administration is making very little effort to contain it. Trump, calling governors “complainers” with “insatiable appetites,” has ignored governors’ requests for medical equipment and companies’ requests for guidelines on how to allocate equipment to desperate states.
But there’s one thing Trump is willing to spend money on: his racist border wall. Although CDC guidelines make it clear that social distancing and closure of non-essential businesses is crucial for flattening the curve, work crews are still being told to come in — sometimes from out of state — to work on the wall.
Border wall construction threatens to put our rural hospital systems in the borderlands at a much higher risk of running out of resources and space.
Even before COVID-19, rural health care in Arizona faced challenges. Today, a hospital in southern Arizona may be forced to close because of coronavirus-related costs. The Trump administration’s decision to continue construction will only help the disease spread — and place a further burden on Arizona’s health care system.
Tomorrow, I will return to the hospital to do what I can for the patients here. I will don a single-use mask until it falls apart, and inevitably watch our staff fall sick. And tomorrow, the Trump administration will keep wasting billions of dollars to build its vanity wall.
Federal funding needs to go to protect our health care workers so that we can protect our community. It’s time to realign our priorities and make sure resources get to our health care system in this time of crisis.