Health & Human Services secretary visits Jacksonville, speaks with front line workers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services stopped in Jacksonville on Friday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to combat it.

Secretary Xavier Bacerra met with the Black Men Engaged group, stopped by a testing site and spoke with front line workers at UF Health.

Several UF Health healthcare professionals sat across from Becerra discussing what it’s like on the front lines of the pandemic. Staffing shortages and burnouts were a main concern.

ICU nurse Michael Smith shared his experience.

“I was coming off five days in a row and it was right during the Thanksgiving holidays I was working hard. I ended up suffering two strokes, two really small strokes and it knocked me out for twenty-three days and then after that I really had to go back and look at what I was doing and now I’ve cut my work hours,” said Smith.

Supply chain has also been a challenge for the hospital.

“Things are really good PPE wise but the supply chain is probably 3 times worse now than when the pandemic started. You’ve got all the port issues. You’ve got all the people down in production some of these vendors have just exited the market on these product lines and its crazy,” said Supply Chain Director Chris Mele.

Secretary Becerra said the Biden-Harris Administration’s $103 million American Rescue Plan funds are helping reduce burnout and promote mental health and wellness for health care workers.

Becerra also pushed vaccinations.

“I hear that people aren’t always getting vaccinated. What we’re not describing is that there are people who would get vaccinated if they had all the information. If they had the confidence that they were hearing from trusted voices and if they knew that they didn’t have to search for where to get vaccinated and it was something that was available to them,” said Becerra.

Leaders with Black Men Engaged said they have seen progress in Duval County.

“We’ve seen a 7% increase over the last two and a half months that we’ve been here on the ground, in vaccination rates.”

UF Health said they have not received funds from the American Rescue Plan yet, but they are expecting it soon.

According to Secretary Bacerra’s staff, the University of Central Florida Board of Trustees in Orlando received $1,496,128 for Health and Public Safety Workforce Resiliency Training program.

About the Author:

Corley Peel is a Texas native and Texas Tech graduate who covered big stories in Joplin, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida before returning to the Lone Star State. When not reporting, Corley enjoys hot yoga, Tech Football, and finding the best tacos in town.