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‘I did my duty’ Former nurse at Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital says unsafe working conditions have led to mass resignations

Source: Open Media

In a video published on April 27 by the news website Open Media, a former assistant nurse at Moscow's Kommunarka hospital says many staff aren't given adequate protective gear and haven't receive promised bonus payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Natalia Lyubimaya told Open Media that dozens of nurses and other junior medical staff have resigned from the hospital because of low wages and unsafe working conditions, such as having to wear reusable protective gear rather than single-use disposable equipment. Lyubimaya spoke initially on condition of anonymity, but she decided to reveal her name after the hospital’s chief medical officer, Denis Protsenko, denied the mass resignations, said working conditions are normal, and insisted that “all staff are given free access to all means of protection.” 

In her video, Lyubimaya says she was employed by an outsourcing company called “Arni” that supplies Kommunarka with junior medical staff. According to Lyubimaya, she filled three different positions at the hospital: junior nurse, cafeteria worker, and laundry woman. She says she never received the special bonus payment promised by President Putin to emergency workers during Russia's coronavirus epidemic. When she resigned, she asked to be paid her full salary and the bonus.

“I worked honestly. I did my duty,” Lyubimaya said. “I worked for two shifts and sometimes three shifts in a row. They stopped feeding us. We had to reuse our stuff. And I was going into the hospital rooms of [the actor Nikolai] Gubenko, [the billionaire Igor] Sosin, and other well-known people. In other words, I exposed them to the risk of a new infection because I was wearing the same suit that I wore to intensive care,” she said. Some of the nurses still working at Kommunarka are currently looking for new jobs, she added.   

Open Media spoke to another woman at the same hospital who'd come from Central Asia to Moscow to work as a nurse. Speaking on condition of anonymity, this second woman said nurses at Kommunarka have not been issued sterile personal protective equipment, even after Protsenko’s statement.

Update. After the release of this video, Lyubimaya recorded a second message, where she said the situation at Kommunarka is not what is depicted on television. “In the ICU, you have to rent basic things like bedpans,” she said. She also claimed that more than 100 “Arni” employees sent to work at the hospital were never tested for the coronavirus.

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Story by Alexander Baklanov, translation by Carol Matlack

Cover image: Open Media / YouTube

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