COVID crisis update

Accommodation for those over age 60
We have heard from some nurses who have requested an accommodation for being over age 60, that you were informed you will not be granted the accommodation because you are not over age 65. In the COVID MOA, Section 1 Article 4 reads, “A nurse or health care worker who is unable to work due to being part of the CDC’s at-risk group (older than 60 or with an underlying medical condition) may request an accommodation. If a workplace accommodation cannot be granted, the employee may apply for a leave of absence under the terms and conditions of existing leave plans and have access to accrued time off benefits if granted leave. If the employee’s paid time off accruals exhaust during the leave, the Employer will maintain health insurance benefits until the employee is deemed eligible to return to work by the Employer.”

If you were denied an accommodation sought for being over age 60, you may apply for a leave of absence per the MOA.

No paid admin leave for workplace exposure
We have heard from several nurses that they were not permitted to work because of signs/symptoms of COVID, or pending test results, or due to workplace exposure and that they were not placed on paid administrative leave during this time period. Per the MOA, Section 1, Article 1: “A nurse or health care worker who the Employer does not permit to work due to exposure to COVID-19 disease while at work shall be placed in paid leave status during any quarantine period required by the Employer. Paid leave status may be a combination of L&I Workers Compensation and Employer paid administrative leave, the combination of which will ensure the Employee will experience no loss of pay or accrued time off until such time as the Employer permits the employee to return to work. An Employer representative will be available to assist employee with coordination of federal, state and employer benefits as may be applicable.”

WSNA contends that this language applies to any exposure at work, either patient or staff exposure. WSNA has filed a grievance on behalf of all affected RNs to get backpay for those who were forced to use PTO/EIT when not permitted to work due to workplace exposure. WSNA advises all RNs to keep your own records of any workplace exposure. L&I is accepting claims of healthcare workers show are quarantined after exposure on the job. If you have not yet done so, you may apply for L&I benefits.

Not learning of workplace exposures
We have heard from many nurses that you are not being notified of a workplace exposure from a coworker in a timely manner or not at all, except through the grapevine. Per the MOA, Section 1, Article 6: “The Employer will provide all nurses or health care workers who have been exposed (such as treating a patient who was not confirmed, but later is identified to have COVID-19) with notice within eight (8) hours of Employer notice of the diagnosis. The written notice will include: the date of exposure, assessment of exposure risk and Employer decision on whether to permit the nurse or health care worker to work or placed on paid leave.”

Understand that TG is not required to notify anyone of the name of the individual who tested positive, and that WSNA respects each individual’s right to privacy. But TG is required to notify you of every possible workplace exposure, from patient, visitor or staff member, within 8 hours of the employer’s notice of the diagnosis. If you feel that you were not notified within 8 hours of your coworker notifying TG of their positive diagnosis, this is a violation of the MOA. WSNA has contacted TG with our concerns that all RNs need this timely notice of exposure to make decisions for the health and safety of yourselves and your loved ones.

Ongoing discussions with TG leadership and HR
The WSNA executive officers and the WSNA nurse representative continue to have discussions with TG leadership and HR about ongoing issues. We are bringing forth your concerns and working collaboratively to to address issues that affect the TG RNs during this COVID crisis. If you feel your concerns have not been addressed, we want to hear from you.

Keep updated with the latest info
Find the list of your WSNA officers and stay updated on the latest TG RN communication from WSNA at https://www.wsna.org/union/tacoma-general-hospital

COVID-Related Resources
Includes: PPE, testing, leave, financial, clinical care, psychosocial, parenting

If you have concerns or questions, contact any WSNA officer or WSNA Nurse Representative Sydne James, sjames@wsna.org