Features, Health and Safety, Municipal Government, National

Nursing Home Workers Still Lack PPE in Florida

May 12, 2020

By Joe Levine

Miami Fl, – Months into the COVID-19 crisis, and with the numbers of confirmed cases spiking in Florida’s long-term care (LTC) facilities, nursing home workers still are facing dangerous shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE).

From March 1 to April 30, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in nursing homes in Florida rose from 0 to about 3,500, with more than 320 deaths. Some individual Florida facilities were shown to have more than 100 COVID-positive cases each, according to the latest state reports.
Of these total cases, more than 1,100 were nursing home staff members and caregivers who help dress, feed, bathe, and carry out many other close-contact and essential daily functions for elderly residents. Members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, say that they still face substantial shortages of masks, gloves, gowns and other PPE on the job,  

These discrepancies and lack of transparency have been an ongoing problem during this crisis,” said Dale Ewart, executive vice president at 1199SEIU, the state’s largest union of healthcare workers. “LTC facilities have not been sharing information with staff, such as how many or if there were COVID cases in the building, which makes it very difficult to protect yourself or feel safe. Withholding data can be as dangerous as not having or hoarding PPE, for both residents and caregivers. Our members have been working in fear for their patients, themselves, and their own families.”

Nursing home workers already face special challenges on the job, such as unfairly low pay and limited benefits such as healthcare and paid time off. While fighting for better wages and benefits in regular times, the union has demanded improved protections and special pay during the pandemic. In addition to PPE, the union is seeking quarantine pay, sick time, and more.

Members and leaders of 1199SEIU Florida have called on government at all levels to step in to improve safety and the overall public health. This includes universal masking and enhanced safety protocols, comprehensive testing, and utilizing all resources for increased PPE production and distribution. As PPE shortages continue, the union facilitated a donation of 20,000 KN-95 masks to nursing homes in Florida to supplement shortfalls and better protect workers.

“We’re in this crisis and still having to scrap and scrape for supplies because of incompetent preparation, especially by the Trump administration, said Margarette Nerette, 1199SEIU vice president of long-term care. “But all parties must be held accountable, including healthcare facilities that are hoarding PPE or misrepresenting or withholding critical COVID-related information such as actual cases and notifications of contact with COVID-positive individuals.”

“These are our parents, grandparents, and their caregivers in their greatest time of need,” said Nerette. “Everyone should be in this together to protect their wellbeing.”

*** 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East is the largest healthcare union in the country representing more than 450,000 nurses and healthcare workers nationwide, including more than 24,000 in Florida. 

May 12, 2020

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