Nurse who fought for more PPE dies of coronavirus days before retirement
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A nurse who fought for more personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus epidemic allegedly died of COVID-19 last week, days before her union says she was scheduled to retire.

National Nurses United first announced Celia Yap Banago’s death in a press release last week and celebrated her life in a candlelight vigil Thursday in front of Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., where she worked for 40 years.

The union released footage of the vigil on Sunday, saying Banago contracted the disease while caring for an infected patient. The union said in the release Banago was "one of many" nurses who "expressed concern over inadequate COVID-19 preparation" at the center. 

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Some of her co-workers and the union say they hope her death raises awareness about medical professionals not having enough PPE, such as surgical masks and gloves. 

"Nurses know the best way to honor Celia's life is to fight to #ProtectNurses and other workers on the front lines of this crisis,” said a nurse quoted by the union in a tweet.

The union has alleged that HCA, which owns Research Medical Center, did not provide proper PPE to prevent Banago’s death, CBS Kansas City station KCTV reported

Nurses from the center where she worked participated in protests conducted at 16 HCA facilities across the country, saying the hospital chain is putting medical professionals and their patients at risk, according to the union's press release.

HCA said in a statement to KCTV that it was “deeply disappointed” that “the union is seeking to exploit Celia’s death as an opportunity to criticize the hospital for a global PPE shortage.”

"Not only is this simply not the case, but the challenges the pandemic has created for all hospitals are well understood," the statement read. "Research Medical Center is doing everything we can to protect our colleagues, not only today, but ensure supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) well into the future."

The hospital chain said in a statement to The Hill that it is "heartbroken" by Banago's death and it offered "our deepest sympathies to her family and friends." HCA said the medical center's "preparedness and planning" began months ago.

"Since the outset of the pandemic, we have followed guidelines on PPE from infectious disease experts, including those at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)," the statement said. "We continue to do everything in our power to help ensure the protection of our colleagues, not only today, but into the future as the pandemic continues to evolve." 

—Updated at 6:14 p.m.