Members of NYS Nurses Association protest Rikers Island conditions

Members of the New York State Nurses Association protested conditions on Rikers Island Thursday.

News 12 Staff

May 7, 2020, 8:54 PM

Updated 1,477 days ago

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Members of the New York State Nurses Association protested conditions on Rikers Island Thursday. 
Nurses say they don’t have enough personal protection equipment. 
They also say that proper social distancing guidelines are not being followed. 
"We want to have our patients protected. That means they need equipment also -- they need masks,” said Rikers Island nurse Alicia Butler. 
She says health care workers there are committed to this population, which is often overlooked and underserved. 
Last month, the Legal Aid Society said the COVID-19 infection rate on Rikers is seven times higher than that of New York City and more than 10 times higher compared to the state. 
The nurses claim the patients even lack soap to stay clean. The Department of Corrections tells News 12 that every person in custody has access to their own bar of soap, which can be replenished if needed. 
A DOC spokesperson tells News 12, “The safety and health of people in our facilities always comes first, which is why we have been distributing ample PPE to staff and detainees alike and will do so for the duration of the pandemic. We have been working around the clock to ensure that our personnel and individuals in our custody remain safe."
The nurses say it goes beyond personal protective equipment. They are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restore billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid in next year's state budget.
"We are the public health system. We can't afford cuts as it is. We're already suffering. We can't afford additional cuts,” said Butler. 
The nurses say they have also lost two of their own recently to the coronavirus.
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