For Immediate Release
December 7, 2020
Healthcare workers and allies joined HPAE President Debbie White, RN, at a news conference on Monday to call on the state of New Jersey to report the number of COVID positive healthcare workers in hospitals and to hold the industry accountable for coronavirus infections among their workforces.
The workers and union leaders spoke at an emergency news conference on Monday against the backdrop of a resurgent pandemic and COVID-19 infection outbreaks at health care facilities, as hospitals continue to not report data on staff infections to the New Jersey State Department of Health.
“Hospital worker illness continues to go unreported,” White said. “Currently, the state COVID-19 dashboard, has daily counts of infections among staffs and resident populations at nursing homes, psychiatric facilities, and schools. What you won’t see on the dashboard is the impact that the pandemic is having on hospital staff.”
“Healthcare workers across the state are reporting that hospitals are not consistently and regularly testing staff. From the early days of the pandemic it became well known that to manage and flatten the curve we must do routine testing, establish effective contact tracing systems, and provide proper PPE to protect workers.”
If passed, the bill would require healthcare facilities to report to the DOH the number of workers infected and sickened, and who lost their lives due to COVID-19 infection.’
The union leaders, allies and healthcare workers at the press conference also spoke with alarm at the rapidly rising numbers of coronavirus cases, raising concerns about the limited number of healthcare worker staff available to hospitals during this surge.
In addition to calling for data to be collected and reported on healthcare workers, union leaders and allies called on the NJ Senate Health Committee to reject legislation that will penalize healthcare workers and hold them accountable for reporting data that healthcare operators currently have yet to report.
Lastly, speakers spoke about a law signed by the Governor in July, that says that any essential worker who contracts COVID-19 is presumed to have contracted COVID in the workplace and entitles that worker to benefits including but not limited to Workers Compensation.
Senate Majority Leader Senator Loretta Weinberg: “Healthcare workers are one of the hardest-hit groups in this pandemic. Healthcare facilities need to step up to the plate and be responsible actors. Workers are being asked to take unnecessary risks, so we need better transparency to protect not just the workers themselves, but the patients and their families, as well. New Jerseyans should know what’s going on in the health facilities taking care of themselves and their loved ones. And better yet, they should know those facilities are safe and that the workers enjoy basic protections.”
Stavros Christoudias, M.D., Chair of NJ Doctor Patient Alliance: “The members of the New Jersey Doctor Patient Alliance stand with our nurses, and allied healthcare workers in opposition of S.2865. While we appreciate the sponsors intent to support patient safety, we feel that imposing punitive measures of any kind upon nurses, who are already strained and working under impossible circumstances during the COVID pandemic, will not only fall short of accomplishing this goal, but only add more stress to a workforce already near its breaking point. We firmly believe that the responsibility of knowing the infection status of a healthcare facility or system clearly rests with the leadership of the hospital or system administration. We do agree that tracking hospital employees (including physicians) who are sick, debilitated, and/or have died from COVID is a sound practice to help us understand the impact this disease has on our workforce. We have advocated for this measure in the past, and continue to do so. We feel that S.2865 attempts to accomplish a similar task, but in a way that unnecessarily burdens our nurses and allied healthcare workers who are at their breaking point.”
Barbara Rosen, HPAE First Vice-President: “This data is not being tracked and reported because there is no mandate to do so. So why then would we seek to pass a bill like S.2865 that mandates that employees track and report the data that employers are not required to track or report?”
Judy Danella, president of USW Healthcare Workers Council: “It’s a tough profession that will get even tougher as this pandemic grows. The number of newly infected that are reported daily are routinely now the highest we’ve ever seen each day. That means that many, if not most, of the people you hear got infected today, are coming to a hospital near you. It is a coming storm.”
Douglas Placa, Executive Director of JNESO District Council 1: “They call us heroes, but we aren’t treated as such by hospital and care center administrators. Health care workers continue to provide the backbone for care during the rise and fall of this epidemic. The fact that our members are not informed in a timely manner when a
fellow worker falls ill, tests positive, or even dies from COVID-19 is not acceptable. It is the facility’s responsibility to keep the State and OSHA informed of these cases so our workers can demand and get the protection they need, particularly PPE which is still being rationed, to protect themselves and their patients and reduce the spread of the virus.”
Rich Marcolus of NJCOSH: “Our members are representing healthcare workers across New Jersey who have fallen ill and are struggling to be compensated for the harm they have experienced. NJ must not forget, healthcare workers deserve to be protected. It is their work which has saved thousands of lives. COSH stands in support of our essential health care workers who are being unfairly targeted by S.2865.”
Susan Cleary, District 1199J/AFSCME President: “These are difficult times for everyone and it is essential we have the public’s trust, safety for our frontline workers and an understanding that transparency protects everyone. It is critical for our workers and the general public to know how many healthcare personnel in facilities have tested positive, been admitted for treatment or died from COVID. This information would be posted on the Department of Health’s website for transparency for the public.”
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