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For Immediate Release
April 9, 2020

UUP takes steps to protect front-line health care professionals

United University Professions, the nation’s largest higher education union, has purchased 100,000 medical isolation gowns for doctors, nurses and medical staff on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic at SUNY public hospitals in Brooklyn, Stony Brook and Syracuse.

The shipment of isolation gowns will be delivered to SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, where the need is most severe. The gowns are set to be delivered early next week. In March, the governor designated SUNY Downstate as a COVID-19-only hospital.

Over the next few weeks, the union will ship gowns and various Personal Protective Equipment to doctors, nurses and health care workers at Stony Brook University Medicine and Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, and faculty at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine, who are working in community hospitals.

“These are our colleagues, our friends, our neighbors, our health care providers, and they are union members showing up every day, saving lives and fighting this dreaded disease without the appropriate gear,” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D. “We wanted to help.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, isolation gowns are used to protect the arms and exposed body areas of health care workers, and prevent contamination with blood, body fluids and other potential infectious materials. Health care workers rely on the gowns to protect them from the threat of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

“Health care professionals across the state, including thousands of UUP members, are still working without proper PPE,” Kowal said. “COVID-19 is too dangerous. Searching for more personal protective equipment was a natural and necessary next step.”

SUNY’s public teaching hospitals provide life-saving care to the most vulnerable populations in their communities, regardless of their ability to pay for care.

UUP is also providing housing for members at the hospitals who are fearful of bringing the virus home to their families.

And UUP members at campuses across the state have stepped up to support their health care colleagues during this unprecedented time. UUP members are making face shields, sending meals and donations to colleagues who are out of work, and providing child care coverage for essential employees.

“The outpouring of support for our health care professionals from the public has been overwhelming,” Kowal said. “But these professionals need more than our support; they need to be able to protect themselves and their families.”

Once the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, UUP quickly began the search for PPE to protect its front-line hospital members.

“We are incredibly proud of our health care members who are working relentlessly to care for fellow New Yorkers with compassion and dedication,” Kowal said.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 42,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.

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