UCSF front line worker concerned about workload, possible layoffs amid COVID-19 pandemic: 'We need support'

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A front line worker on the COVID-19 pandemic at University of California, San Francisco Medical Center is speaking out because he is concerned about workload and possible layoffs

James McKnight sent ABC7 News a message saying he wanted to speak out about his current working conditions at UCSF as a Patient Care Assistant. In late June, McKnight protested in front of his own hospital, UCSF on Parnassus, along with other workers across the state demanding no layoffs.

UC San Diego and UC Riverside recently sent out layoff notices to about 200 hospitality and dining staff, as well as 16 patient care assistants like McKnight. While there have been no layoffs at UCSF of front line workers, McKnight claims that his workload has increased post-COVID19, and he is now worried about the security of his own job, in the months ahead.

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"I'm running down the hall in a drenched, sweaty t-shirt and my patients see it. I'm trying to do the best I can, but it's not the standard of care, it's not the best that we can do," said McKnight.

"In my own unit, I'm now doing the work of two PCAs. I'm a nursing assistant, that means when a patient hits a call light and they need to go to the bathroom or they need a bath or they're sick and they need to be taken care of, I show up and get a patient through that experience, but right now, they have me taking care of 16 patients, instead of eight."

We went to UCSF with McKnight 's claims. UCSF declined an on-camera interview, but sent us this statement:

"UCSF takes staffing in our hospitals seriously and ensures that the needs of our patients are met amongst the many clinical and non-clinical staff who care for them based on those needs."

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"All of our most skilled nurses are saying that we need more PCAs, we need support, but we're getting nothing from management," said McKnight. "We have staff that doesn't even have time to use the bathroom, you're asking us to do the work of three people with only two people."

McKnight and other employees in the UC system have been sounding the alarm over the last few weeks about layoffs.

Todd Stenhouse, a spokesperson for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union Local 3299 Union says many in his membership, including McKnight are worried for their jobs. The union represents 24,000 UC system employees.

"Let's leave it all on the field UC, let's tap our reserves, and keep these people employed to make sure these facilities are properly staffed," said Stenhouse.

UCSF has not laid off front line workers, but on July 1, CEO Mark Laret sent out a letter telling staff that revenue loss due to the pandemic means learning to work more efficiently.

It's a letter that worries McKnight and prompted him to speak out now, while he still has a job.

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"If the public thinks that when you come to UCSF, if you want a nurse to answer the call light when you hit the button, then you better call up Mark Laret and you better say no job layoffs," said McKnight, "All of our most skilled nurses are saying that we need more PCAs, we need support. But we're getting nothing from management."

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