A sign applauding health care workers is pictured outside the University of Oklahoma Medical Center Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Oklahoma City. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
UPDATED 11:40 AM PT — Thursday, April 2, 2020
Health care workers are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic every day, but one labor union has claimed the current hospital safety measures are not helping keep workers safe.
According to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), existing protocols are not being regularly updated and are leaving hospital workers uninformed. The SEIU is now calling for hazard pay, which would give workers extra compensation for risking their health for others.
“We’re here to say that our members are afraid to go to work because safety protocols aren’t keeping them safe,” said Anne Igoe, Vice President of the Health Systems Division of SEIU. “That is why we’re calling for hazard pay; we’re trying to keep ourselves safe, we are trying to keep our coworkers safe, we are trying to keep our community safe.”
The union referenced Chicago health care worker Candice Martinez. As a housekeeper at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Martinez is required to sanitize patients’ rooms. She eventually began experiencing headaches, body aches and a sore throat.
The SEIU said she contracted coronavirus due to the hospital’s lack of updated safety protocols. Martinez said she’s only been given standard surgical masks and gloves rather than N95 masks, which are better equipped to block contagions.
For now, Martinez is under a self-quarantine. “I haven’t really been given too much direction besides just wait it out,” she explained.
President Trump said he’s in favor of hazard pay for health care workers and noted his administration is working to provide those on the frontlines with extra compensation during this time.