To the Editor: The Health + Hospitals facilities are "hotbeds" for COVID-19, and that makes the employees I represent prime candidates for infection, as well as potential carriers of the coronavirus to patients, other employees, the community and their families. In recognition of this, on March 4 H+H approved paid leave to exposed workers to allow for isolation and quarantine for up to 14 days.
Then on March 16, H+H introduced a Telecommuting Policy for employees in its effort to mitigate the transmission and effects of COVID-19. But two days later, the H+H Paid Leave and Telecommuting policies were denied to many employees on the grounds that "New DOH and CDC guidelines recommend that employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are non-symptomatic should wear masks and come to work. We are aware of the H+H telecommuting policy but we are forgoing this policy until we know how staff can help around the hospital."
In this time of crisis, health-care workers have to take the risks of COVID-19 exposure, including the lack of adequate PPE, and make great sacrifices for their patients and the community. But it is reckless on the part of some H+H managers to deny protective isolation and telecommuting to employees who can properly function from home. The members are well aware that CDC gives minimum guidelines for the entire country and that it is under extreme pressure from entities such as the American Hospital Association to relax hospital-safety standards. The CDC now says health-care workers who can't get masks should use bandannas or scarfs as a "last resort" when supplies run short. This is simply unacceptable and insulting to the workers, their families and the public during this pandemic.
Local 768 demands that adequate PPE supplies be procured immediately, with hospital personnel given the highest priority. Also, that all health-care workers who are able to telecommute be allowed to do so.
While they are being urged to make the greatest of sacrifices on behalf of their patients, health-care workers should well understand that, once this crisis is over, some managers will continue to take advantage of them. When the economy turns, the workers' sacrifices will be conveniently forgotten. Even in a crisis, all workers in H+H must unite and be vigilant to protect their jobs, pensions, and benefits.
President, Local 768
DC 37, AFSCME
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