UI Student Employee Shares Unsanitary Workplace Conditions

A student employee contracted at the University of Iowa Hospital had been working since June in a neglected makeshift-office filled with garbage, shared, dirty PPE and a lack of sanitizer amid growing concern of the University’s lack of preparedness during threats of COVID-19.

Asking to go by just a first name to protect her identity, Emma, a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in biochemistry on Monday shared via social media videos and photos of her unsanitary office in the hospital’s cardiology lab where she works for the University’s Department of Public Safety.

Piles of trash, empty Clorox containers and a lone face shield were pictured on the ground in Emma’s documentation, which she put out after seeing a number of stories and posts on social media of students and faculty members voicing their discomfort with pandemic protocol at the University.

“I had taken the pictures and the videos because I felt that people needed to document what was going on, but seeing all these cases over social media and seeing it wasn’t an isolated incident, made me want to share it,” Emma said in an interview with Iowa Starting Line.

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Because of her uneasiness with their lack of COVID-19 safety precautions, Emma last week quit her job called “fire watch,” where she was tasked with patrolling mostly hospital sites that don’t have fire detection or smoke alarms. Having worked in the role since she was a freshman in 2016 in order to pay for housing, Emma said she had planned on quitting as soon as she got a new job, which she did this month.

“I didn’t have serious problems in my workplace until this year, they didn’t take COVID safety seriously for the longest time,” she said.

The office conditions were atypical, Emma said, and became particularly bad after their department had to switch workspaces because of an unknown reason back in June. She said her manager was unresponsive when she emailed him about the conditions.

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“He would send emails informing us of the hospital’s new requirements regarding wearing PPE and complaining about it. ‘Like, the hospital is going to make us wear face shields, it’s going to suck but you have to do it.’” Emma said.

Rarely in the room with other employees because their job requires monitoring different sites, Emma said she and a group of about ten coworkers share PPE equipment, however, along with radios and keys which were not regularly cleaned. The office was also not equipped with sanitizer or other cleaning products.

“For the longest time, we had to share PPE. We had one face shield that we had to share, but by the time I quit, they had ordered some more,” Emma said. “They had no equipment to sanitize, there was supposed to be sanitizer there but it ran out, so I had to go to the bathroom and grab paper towels and clean the best I could.”

With never enough cleaning equipment or sanitizer, their office was not maintained at all, Emma said, but was an isolated case in the hospital.

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“The best I can tell, it was limited to our space and our department. I never saw anything so bad in other parts of the hospital,” she said. “The areas that were under the hospital’s jurisdiction and not our jurisdiction as contracted employees of the hospital were meticulously taken care of.”


by Isabella Murray
Posted 8/25/20

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