Essential Workers #GetVaccinated

Melissa Tirado, Clerical 4  

Client Navigator at North Central Bronx Hospital 

“I work in the COVID clinic at North Central Bronx Hospital. I am a bridge between the patient and the hospital. I do all the legwork, making appointments for patients to be tested and vaccinated and get their follow-up shot. I also coordinate their appointments for other hospital services. If patients need ambulatory care, or specialty services like surgical or medical, anything they need we schedule for them for their convenience.

The COVID Clinic is a testing and immunization site for the public and the staff at North Central. On opening day, we saw 250 patients. Now about 150 patients and dozens of staff come in daily. 

When the pandemic began, we were hit so badly. My 7-hour shift and overtime mean I work 12 hour days. We were scared. I could feel the uncertainty. I could feel the anxiety. In our work, we stand close, often within six feet for about 20 minutes as we register each patient. We could easily contract COVID. Many of us asked would we catch this? 

It was not if but only a matter of when. I am a single mom of three. Each day I wondered would I bring it home today.

We are living in uncertain times and as a shop steward, I want to make sure that my coworkers and I feel safe and protected. The union helped us a lot. Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez got us PPE and had NYC Health+Hospitals install Plexiglas protectors.

Several of my family are essential workers—they are teachers, they work for MTA. When three relatives tested positive for COVID-19 and got sick, it was too close to home. One showed no symptoms. Another lost all sense of smell. It was scary for about two months. Fortunately, they recovered. 

That’s when I decided I had to get the vaccine. When the chance came up at work, I volunteered. 

The vaccine is welcome because the Bronx is one of the hardest hit areas of New York. I do not want to bring this disease home to my kids. I am all they have. 

Since I got the vaccine, I feel more comfortable. I still take precautions, I wear a mask, and I wash my hands and practice social distancing.

We are going through a lot but DC 37 is like a family. The union has so many resources available to support us. We’re going to look back and say we lived through this and we helped New York City get through this pandemic.”

As told to Diane S. Williams

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