Home Health care provider Why U.S. healthcare workers are stepping up their fight for fair treatment and patient safety

Why U.S. healthcare workers are stepping up their fight for fair treatment and patient safety

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This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

In recent months, so many people with COVID-19 have sought treatment at Providence St. Mary Medical Center that the hospital has sorted patients into a tent outside the facility and set up a makeshift room in the main hall.

Many workers are doing 2 and 4 hour shifts to keep the Southern California facility up and running during the crisis, some comforting the dying and others volunteering to use their Spanish skills to help communicate over the phone with the dying. poor family members.

But instead of recognizing workers who risked their lives and burned out, the hospital escalated the tension by demanding concessions and dragging out contract negotiations for more than a year.

Across the country, hospitals continue to stretch workers to breaking point and endanger the entire healthcare system.

“The point is, without us hospitals have no one,” observed Alma Garzon, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 183, which represents hundreds of workers at Providence St. Mary.

“Some of them don’t understand what we’re really doing,” Garzon said of the hospital executives. “The superiors are not going to come and take care of our patients. They’re not going to get their hands dirty.

The pandemic has exacerbated staff shortages that plagued hospitals, nursing homes and other health facilities long before COVID-19.

To protect their communities during the crisis, workers mobilized, worked strenuous overtime and took on extra duties. Yet Garzon said when union officials spoke about the need to invest in workers and take action to increase staffing levels, management’s response was, “You signed up for this. “

“It was a big slap in the face,” said Garzon, whose members ratified a new contract on Oct. 7, after about 15 months of being blocked from the hospital.

More and more health systems treat workers with the same contempt.

This is fueling widespread exhaustion and fatigue and is forcing a growing number of healthcare workers to step up their fights for fair treatment and patient safety.

Nurses at a Massachusetts hospital began a strike seven months ago. Workers at the New York and Oregon facilities have also been on a picket line in recent weeks.

Another potential flashpoint is California’s Inland Empire. About 7,400 members of Steelworkers Local 7600 are among tens of thousands of workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities who recently authorized a strike over demands from management that would impoverish their families and compromise care.

While the conglomerate has maintained a healthy bottom line during the pandemic, it wants to maintain the wages of current workers and drastically reduce pay scales for new hires, a punch that will certainly worsen staff shortages and put hospitals at risk. .

Adding insult to injury, the healthcare system intends to implement the proposal at the expense of workers in environmental services, dietetics and other behind-the-scenes departments.

All of them fulfill essential roles in patient care.

Yet because these workers have a low profile, healthcare systems often treat them like consumables and try to cut corners at their expense. The pay scale proposed by Kaiser Permanente would introduce new workers around the California minimum wage and remove their earning potential for the rest of their lives.

” It’s not good. It’s disrespectful and an outrage for healthcare workers
all over. Everyone deserves a living wage, ”said Norberto Gomez, vice-president
President of Local 7600.

Instead of urgently seeking an agreement, Kaiser Permanente retaliated against the workers by threatening to suspend or cancel contractual holidays until the end of the labor dispute. He even stooped to harassing workers who wore union t-shirts.

Like their counterparts in California and across the country, Jackie Anklam and about 620 other workers at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw, Mich., Have taken on additional responsibilities during the pandemic.

The Greeters repeatedly risked exposure to COVID-19 by handing out fresh masks to everyone entering the hospital. The phlebotomists performed driving tests for coronavirus in the parking lots of the establishment.

And environmental service workers risk their lives disinfecting floors, walls, linens and furnishings in rooms occupied by COVID-19 patients. Hour-long cleanings, carried out in gowns, gloves and goggles, often left workers drenched in sweat.

Yet like Garzon and Gomez, Anklam found itself struggling to preserve workers’ hard-earned benefits in contract negotiations with ungrateful executives.

“I just think they underestimate the work of my members,” said Anklam, president of Steelworkers Local 9899. “I don’t know why they don’t get it. They don’t see the big picture.

The disrespect only made Anklam and his colleagues fight harder. They stood firm and got salary increases and benefit increases.

“The members have spoken,” Anklam said.

The workers at Kaiser Permanente want nothing more than the healthcare system to come to its senses and take the necessary steps to avoid a strike.

But they are realizing that they cannot truly care for their patients without also providing for themselves and their families and holding the health care system accountable. Right now, with the pandemic still raging, their commitment to lousy treatment is all that keeps dozens of Kaiser Permanente facilities open to the public.

“People are sick and tired, and they’ve had enough, and they’re ready to stand up and fight back,” Gomez said.

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