SAGINAW, MI – Some people might call Catherine Davis a hero.
Lately, however, the 60-year-old has said she struggles to feel like one.
Throughout the deadliest times of the pandemic, support staff at Hoyt Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Saginaw exposed themselves daily to residents suffering – and dying – from the COVID-19 virus. Her job included tasks as simple as folding laundry for the elderly there, and yet “a good day” sometimes just involved surviving an illness that has killed more than 700,000 Americans.
“We have all taken risks on our lives, and we all came home scared to take risks on our family’s lives,” Davis said of her and other support staff in the days. establishments across the country. “The nurses and helpers all worked hard together. We should all be treated like heroes.
Davis will join his colleagues and support staff peers from other nursing homes in Saginaw in calling for a city-funded ‘hero pay’ at the Saginaw City Council meeting on Monday, October 11 at 6 p.m. h 30 at Saginaw Town Hall, 1315 S. Washington.
Organized by the SEIU Healthcare Michigan union which represents 17,000 healthcare workers in the state, nursing home workers plan to make their case during the public comment section of the rally.
The reasoning behind their united front at Saginaw Town Hall: Michigan lawmakers last month approved a state budget that did not include support staff in a pandemic-related pay rise provided to nurses and certified nursing assistants working in the same hazardous environments. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed state budget backed by $ 2.7 billion in federal COVID-19 funding which, in part, supported a wage increase of $ 2.35 per hour for direct care workers.
With members of Saginaw City Council holding the purse strings on its own piece of federal COVID-19 aid – $ 52 million in American Rescue Plan Act stimulus funding, to be precise – Davis and his colleagues hope local elected officials will reward nursing home support staff in a way heads of state have not.
Members of the support staff group did not indicate the amount of money they expected to receive.
Last month, Saginaw city council members hosted the first in a series of public strategy sessions that they believe will help them decide how to spend the stimulus before it expires in 2026. Although the council has not specifically addressed ideas related to nursing home support staff, this first collection of ideas generated, including the relief of healthcare workers.
Nicole Flores, a housekeeper who also works at the Hoyt Nursing and Rehab Center, hoped the council would choose her and her peers for part of the pandemic relief fund.
“We are essential and we deserve a raise,” said Flores. “Saginaw City Council has the opportunity to be a leader and show the rest of the state how we should value and support essential workers.”
Nursing homes were a particularly dangerous environment around this time last year. With older populations at high risk of death from the pandemic, nursing homes suffered substantial losses ahead of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine which began in December 2020.
The deaths have extended to staff caring for residents of these sites.
A statewide database shows, in Michigan long-term care facilities, there have been 80 staff fatalities; 69 of these deaths occurred before March 2021.
There have been 25,397 reported cases of COVID-19 among staff at these same sites, including 70 cases reported to the Hoyt Nursing and Rehab Center.
“Support staff like me worked through this pandemic because we knew our residents needed us,” Flores said.
“We risked our lives walking into COVID rooms, cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, responding to patient call lights. We did whatever was necessary. This is why it was so upsetting to hear that when the state renewed a pandemic pay rise for direct care providers in nursing homes, they did not include staff from support like me. “
While daily COVID-19 cases are drastically down from the pre-vaccine environment, the number of long-term care facilities statewide is on the rise again in recent weeks after a summer relatively soft. For example, during a 7-day period in June 2021, two cases of COVID-19 from nursing home staff were reported statewide, compared with 352 cases reported during the week of September 29. to October 6.
Because the pandemic remains dangerous, frontline workers continue to deserve additional financial reimbursement for this risk, Davis said.
“We’re out there doing what we need to do to make things work,” she said.
“Everyone who worked during the pandemic deserves something more. If you want to call us heroes, we must be treated like heroes.
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