News & Events

St. Luke’s Hospital and Tobey Hospital Nurses Distribute Hundreds of KN95 Masks as Part of Statewide MNA COVID-19 PPE Effort Fueled by Help from Generous Donors, MNA Purchases of Equipment

Thousands of donations — from masks, scrubs and sneakers, to snacks and water — have poured in from around the Commonwealth and country to help protect and support nurses and healthcare professionals

NEW BEDFORD and WAREHAM, Mass. Registered nurses at St. Luke’s Hospital and Tobey Hospital, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, began distributing 700 FDA-approved KN95 respirator masks to their colleagues on April 15 to help ensure every nurse and healthcare professional on the front lines of COVID-19 has the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to properly guard against the highly contagious and stealthy spread of COVID-19.


Left to right: Tobey Hospital RN Sulyn Rudolph McCarthy and St. Luke’s RNs Samantha Erskine-Joseph, Carrie Pessini and Kim Beaulieu were among those distributing masks to their colleagues on April 15.

In the wake of dangerous delays in the provision of desperately needed PPE for nurses and healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lack of an adequate state and federal effort to provide needed protections, the MNA in conjunction with donors, contractors, and outside organizations, has successfully acquired and is now distributing a significant quantity of PPE and other supplies to its members statewide.

On Wednesday morning, St. Luke’s nurses began distributing 600 KN95 masks to individual MNA nurses outside their hospital. Tobey nurses also began distributing 100 KN95 masks to fellow MNA nurses at their hospital. The MNA is advocating for universal N95 mask protection for all nurses and healthcare workers caring for any patients during the pandemic because the virus can be spread by those without symptoms.

“Our nurses have struggled to consistently get the protective equipment we need,” said Deb Falk, emergency department RN at St. Luke’s and Co-Chair of the MNA Bargaining Unit. “It is critical nurses are properly protected so we can care for a surge in COVID-19 patients and keep our families safe. Together with truly amazing and generous people in our communities we are making every effort to ensure St. Luke’s nurses have the PPE we need to safely fight this pandemic.”

Sharon Miksch, Tobey RN and Chair of the MNA Bargaining Unit, said, “Our nurses have been 100 percent dedicated to caring for each and every Tobey patient since this crisis began, and too often they were doing so without the right PPE. With these donated masks now in the hands of our nurses, they can finally feel safe when they are at the bedside."

Statewide MNA PPE Efforts

20,000 FDA-approved KN95 respirator masks, with another 40,000 on the way

Skyhawk Therapeutics and Dragonfly Therapeutics, based in Waltham, Mass., donated $150,000 for the purchase of one of the most urgently needed PPE: FDA-approved KN95 respirator masks.

“These medical-grade masks are essential to the safety and well-being of our nurses and healthcare professionals,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN and MNA president. “Without this PPE, our frontline caregivers are just as susceptible to COVID-19 as every visitor and patient they interact with and care for. If most of our frontline caregivers were to become sick, the entire healthcare system would be compromised. But thanks to this donation, our members can care for patients during this pandemic safely and without fear.”

“Simply thanking Skyhawk Therapeutics and Dragonfly Therapeutics for these donations really isn’t enough,” added Kelly-Williams. “Their generosity is beyond words, and it is beyond measure.”

The MNA also used a sizeable portion of its own budget to purchase PPE for nurses and HCPs. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and both social distancing and the commonwealth’s state of emergency got underway, it meant that the MNA had to cancel its spring education curriculum for members. Those funds were entirely redirected to the purchase of PPE, including the KN95s and, next, face shields.

Distribution of the PPE is now underway, with deliveries — of proportional size, and based on need — being made to facilities across the state by MNA staff members and union leaders. These deliveries will continue to roll out during this month’s anticipated surge and will continue for as long as the items are available and needed. [For information on the MNA’s PPE deliveries within your readership/viewership, email and/or]

Other groups that also contributed in-kind donations of, or monetary donations for, PPE include IBEW Local 103, which donated 20,000 medical-grade N95s; countless small businesses; and more than 80 individuals who added to the MNA’s online fundraising efforts at

Additional donations

  • 2,600 face shields, manufactured and donated by Autodesk
  • 500 sets of scrubs, with more on the way, from Barco Uniforms as part of its “Project Gratitude” initiative
  • 2,000 pairs of sneakers, with an additional 18,000 on the way, from Puma
  • 400 headbands, also from Puma
  • KIND bars from the KIND company
  • Bottled of water from Anheuser-Busch

“The toll this virus is taking on our members and nurses everywhere is profound, and it affects all parts of their daily routines” said Kelly-Williams. “Hospitals have been short on scrubs, and they are hard to come by. Nurses are worried about walking into their homes with sneakers on that they wore at work all day. They have gone hungry and thirsty during their shifts because hospitals have closed their cafeterias, and local convenience stores and delivery services are either closed or overwhelmed.”

“Donations of items like scrubs, sneakers, snacks, and water go a long way in making nurses’ lives feel a little more manageable.” Added Kelly-Williams. “We are so grateful for that, and for the generosity of these companies, organizations, and individuals.

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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.