Coronavirus Policy and Financial Failures Put Nursing Home Workers at Risk

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans       Is the coronavirus a pandemic and economic catastrophe or a hiccup along the road to progress as the President promises?  Who knows?  What already seems clear is that for all of the talk about China not being ready for this, it also seems that America has our pants down around our ankles as well.  Cases in point would have to include nursing home workers and people who are quarantined.

In Washington State many of the deaths so far occurred in what is described as a nursing home.  The Washington State Nurses Association has been critical of the preparations for their people in the home and in area hospitals.  There have been reports that the first arrivals for quarantines at military bases found the medical workers without hazmat suits and other preparations, meaning that they could be Typhoid Mary’s to the general population.  At first glance, none of this has looked like an A-game.

Local 100, United Labor Unions, represents nursing home workers in Shreveport, Napoleonville, and other Louisiana cities, as well as community home workers in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and elsewhere, all of whom serve vulnerable communities and clients.  We are reaching out to the owners and management to determine a plan for the clients we serve, but also what they have in place to protect the workers that we represent.  We’re worried that what we are going to hear is not going to sound pretty!

Why?  None of the nursing homes are nonprofit.  None of them got any better than a barely passing grade on state inspections in Shreveport.  Workers often complain about shortages of basic supplies, including adult diapers.  Are such healthcare facilities given an inside track for masks, gloves, and other preventive equipment?  Do they have the capacity to quarantine on-site or where?  Some do, and some don’t.  Nursing homes are generally more prepared than most because common viruses like the flu are potential killers for such vulnerable populations, but we worry about how easily we could be overwhelmed.

What happens if workers get exposed?  Is this workman’s compensation eligible?  With limited sick pay provisions, workers invariably will try to stay on the job.  How can they be compensated in these situations?  These are unanswered questions.

Reports from quarantined individuals are similar.  If they are placed in private, rather than government facilities, there are already stories of individuals released from quarantine, but getting “surprise” medical bills.  They were directed to a mandatory quarantine by the federal government.  Why are they personally responsible for the bills, if the government sent them to a private facility?

Is this an area for FEMA relief for both the workers and those quarantined?  FEMA does stand for Federal Emergency Management Agency.  It may not be a pandemic yet, but the coronavirus is absolutely an emergency if you are a healthcare worker or someone caught in a room waiting for the all clear to leave.