WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Over 300 hospital workers at Howard University Hospital are striking, holding a rally to protest low pay and staffing shortages.

The protest comes as healthcare staffing shortages are sweeping across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses from the District of Columbia Nurses Association (DCNA) say this issue comes down to a matter of “dignity” and “respect.”

“Nurses are at the breaking point. We have given everything we have to Howard during this pandemic because we are dedicated to our patients and this community. But the offer Howard made is a slap in the face. They aren’t respecting us and they’re not respecting our patients,” said Eileen Shaw, nurse and DCNA HUH president.

The union claims after months of bargaining, the hospital still wants to implement cuts that would cost health care professionals up to $4,600 per year.

Workers gathered outside the hospital all day on Monday, picketing from 7:30 in the morning until 8 p.m.
DCNA Executive Director Edward Smith says health care workers are left with no other option than to strike.

“Two years of donning and doffing protective equipment, exposing themselves and their family members day after day, twelve hours with this protective gear and masks on…It has taken a toll,” said Smith.

Staffing problems have been a concern for years, but it’s only gotten more difficult to fill those spots during the pandemic.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of last month, 28% of nursing facilities report at least one staffing shortage.

The report said that there is a nursing staff shortage of 24% in D.C.. That number climbs to 28% in Virginia and 17% in Maryland.

Howard University did not reply to WDVM’s request for comment.