Workers are on the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic often going above and beyond the call of duty and making sacrifices that place their own health and safety at risk. Unfortunately, healthcare facilities are not providing the plans, training and PPE’s necessary to keep workers safe. Many workers have been exposed unknowingly and testing is largely unavailable for early detection of exposure unless employees begin to show symptoms. Some employers are insisting employees with potential exposures return to work and wear a mask. These practices are unsafe.
We urge federal and state regulators to take steps to ensure healthcare workers have the resources and protections they need to continue to provide safe care and treatment during these challenging times.
Standardized Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness Plans
Frontline caregivers must be provided with clear guidance regarding Covid-19 plans, training and PPE availability. Each healthcare facility in NJ must be following the same mandatory standards to protect staff and patients and effectively reduce the spread and rate of exposure to COVID-19. Those standards must include consistent and routine communication with staff on training, preparations and policies in response to an evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Standard protocols for early identification, assessment and isolation of patients with symptoms resembling COVID-19 are essential in preventing exposure.
Adequate and Accessible Safety Equipment
Make sure all healthcare workers have access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and that they are properly trained in safety protocols regarding COVID-19. Provide equipment to any worker caring for patients with Covid-19 or patients yet undiagnosed, exhibiting similar symptoms. Ensure all safety equipment is secured and available for all front line caregivers and staff.
Quarantine with Access to Testing
Abide by CDC quarantine guidelines for COVID-19 exposure. Provide COVID-19 testing and for all related medical treatment at no cost to healthcare workers, especially those who may have been exposed.
Paid Time Off for ALL Quarantined Healthcare Workers
Institute a policy of paid time off to ensure every healthcare workers receives pay so they can take time off when identified as having had exposure to COVID-19, so accrued paid time off is not exhausted. Promote Worker’s Compensation for employees with COVID-19 patient exposures contract the disease.
Enact childcare subsidies or alternative methods of childcare to all healthcare workers. Additional resources that are available must be shared with front line caregivers to assist in finding childcare options and creating a system to assist workers in finding childcare options.
Hazard Pay and Emergency Stipend
To encourage those who are not currently working in healthcare and have the skills and training to quickly enter the healthcare workforce we must provide incentives to recruit those workers to address a worker shortage crisis. Institute a hazard pay policy of double time for all healthcare workers working during this crisis until such time as there is no longer an emergency or disaster situation.
Offer an emergency stipend to cover the costs of purchasing basic supplies (such as groceries, medicine, and cleaning products) that will allow healthcare workers and their families to remain as healthy as possible.