Seattle, Wash.— Washington State Nurses Association, UFCW 21 and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW today reiterated their call for hazard pay for nurses and frontline health care workers in the face of ongoing shortages of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Leaders of the three unions issued the following statement:
“Since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Washington state on January 21, essential health care workers—including nurses, techs, radiologists, respiratory therapists, maintenance staff, service workers and others—have stepped forward to serve our community. Our members continue to work, day and night, serving thousands of patients and saving lives even as their own lives are put at risk from a severe shortage of masks and other PPE needed to prevent contagion. We need our hospitals to do more to provide adequate protective gear so all are safe at work.
“Our first priority is PPE—we cannot win this fight if health care workers fall ill, and our members deserve to be protected as they work to help others recover.
“But in view of the PPE shortages that have been going on for weeks on end, health care workers have earned more than our thanks. We are grateful to Senator Patty Murray for her leadership in calling for a Heroes Fund to provide hazard pay for all essential workers. Hospital CEOs have been making millions for years. Hazard pay is a basic thing to provide for frontline caregivers and we are calling on hospitals to step up and pay them and calling on Congress to include hazard pay in coronavirus relief legislations to recognize the contributions of our members with hazard pay for the duration of this crisis.
Nurses and frontline health care workers around Washington added their voices to the call for PPE and hazard pay:
Tricia Jenkins, Emergency Department RN, Swedish Medical Center
“I have been taking care of patients in the emergency room wearing a face shield made of stapled-together shower curtain, foam and rubber bands. Any person who is willing to provide patient care in these conditions during the COVID-19 crisis deserves to be paid accordingly for this sacrifice. The government has put a lot of money into stimulus packages, and some of it should be earmarked to pay healthcare workers.”
Edna Cortez, Registered Nurse, Seattle Children’s Hospital:
“I have worked at Seattle Children’s Hospital for almost 30 years. It is not just my patient that I take care of, it is the caregivers and the parents of my patient that I also take care of. They put their trust in me to give the best possible care I can give. In order for me to take care of them, I need to take care of myself safely and be protected during this time of crisis. Which means proper PPE as well as being able to know that I can go home without fear of that I may be infected. There are so many nurses that have a hard time out of fear to speak up and I want to make sure that they are heard. These nurses along with every nurse in the state needs to be protected, respected and supported.”
Cindy Kirkpatrick Kockett, Pharmacy Tech, Kaiser:
“As a Pharmacy Tech it is very important that we are following safe and healthy practices at work. Unfortunately, as few hospitals have sufficient PPE and we don’t have hazard pay, health care workers are feeling even more burned out than usual. We need our employers and elected officials to step up to the plate as much as we have and show us respect.”
Danielle O’Toole, Registered Nurse, Tacoma General Hospital:
“Every day, nurses and other health care workers are taking care of COVID-19 patients without the protective equipment we know we should be using if we weren’t in a crisis situation. I love being a nurse, and I went into this profession knowing that I would care for infectious patients and knowing how to care for infectious patients. But that isn’t the situation nurses are facing. While hazard pay won’t get me the PPE I need, it would at least tell me and my colleagues that the Congress recognizes and appreciates the risks I’m facing.”
Janet Stewart, Registered Nurse, St. Joseph Medical Center:
“As caring Professionals, we’ll do anything to provide quality care for our patients. Our expectation is that we’ll be given the tools and protections to do our jobs safely. Several weeks into this pandemic, we still don’t have the proper Personal Protective Equipment, or are expected to extend the use of disposable PPE. Rules seems to change based on supply and demand instead of what is scientifically proven to be safe. Hazard pay doesn't make up for the lack of PPE, but it would recognize our ongoing dedication to taking care of patients despite the risks.”
Clint Wallace, Registered Nurse, Sacred Heart Medical Center:
“Across Washington state, and across the country, nurses and other health care workers are caring for patients under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. We don’t have the personal protective we need and instead are working under crisis CDC guidelines that fly in the face of what we know about proper precautions in caring for infectious patients, like those with COVID-19. There still has been no scientific data that supports these guideline changes. In these difficult times, as we continue to deliver the care patients need, we are calling for hazard pay to recognize the risks we are stepping up and facing every day.”
Diane Stedham-Jewell, Registered Nurse, Providence Centralia
"We work every shift to care for our patients. So it is very frustrating to be over 7 weeks into the COVID 19 crisis and still so low in PPE that surgical masks are being reprocessed and I have concerns about that sterilization process. We need proper PPE to keep ourselves, our families at home and our patients in the hospital safe."
Adam Halvorsen, Registered Nurse, Kadlec Regional Medical Center:
“I’ve willingly gone into dangerous situations as a firefighter, an EMS and a U.S. Marine, but I always knew what I was getting into and I always had the protective gear I needed. We’re now in a situation where nurses and other health care workers are going in without the personal protective equipment they need and that they rely on when they are taking care of infectious patients. The real solution is to get health care workers the PPE they need, but hazard pay would at least recognize that we have been bravely going in and caring for patients despite the risks.”
WSNA is the leading voice and advocate for nurses in Washington state, providing representation, education and resources that allow nurses to reach their full professional potential and focus on caring for patients. WSNA represents more than 19,000 registered nurses for collective bargaining who provide care in hospitals, clinics, schools and community and public health settings across the state.
About SEIU Healthcare 1199NW
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is a union of nurses and healthcare workers with over 30,000 caregivers throughout hospitals, clinics, mental health, skilled home health and hospice programs in Washington state and Montana. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW’s mission is to advocate for quality care and good jobs for all.
About UFCW 21
UFCW 21 is working to build a powerful union that fights for economic, political and social justice in our workplaces and our communities. We represent over 45,000 workers in retail, grocery stores, health care, and other industries in Washington state.