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“Don’t Leave Working Nevadans in the Rain,” features working women and men, imploring the 2015 Nevada Legislature to stand with middle-class families and to Put Nevada First. Our union produced it, and it stars worker-members from across our union:
Share the video with your friends, family and co-workers! Then CLICK HERE to add your voice to those telling Carson City politicians to Put Nevada’s Middle-Class Families First!
Roughly half of SEIU Nevada’s members work in healthcare, most for the 11 hospitals across the state that we represent. Below is advice offered to these and other frontline workers by Mark Catlin, SEIU’s Occupational Health and Safety Director.
Healthcare Employers Must Develop and Implement Specific Occupational Health and Safety Policies and Procedures to Protect Workers
The first case of Ebola transmission to a healthcare worker in the United States was to a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who had cared for the Liberian man who died from Ebola. The hospital has claimed that all CDC guidance had been followed. Public health officials originally suggested that a breach in protocol must have occurred, although this has since been retracted. This statement has led many to the conclusion that the nurse made a mistake which led to her infection. The response to this has been a call for more training to help healthcare workers protect themselves.
More and better training is crucial, as are drills to practice the strict infection control procedures recommended by CDC and needed to protect healthcare workers when caring for suspected or known patients with Ebola. However, training is only one part of the picture. Hospital management must develop site specific comprehensive programs that integrate the CDC Ebola guidance, at a minimum. Simply referring workers to the CDC website, passing out a print out of the CDC guidelines or showing a short slide presentation is not what is needed. Without a comprehensive infection control program with occupational health and safety built in, just training healthcare workers won’t be enough.
Hospital management should review infection control policies and procedures and incorporate plans for administrative, environmental, and communication measures, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and training and education. Hospitals should also define the individual work practices that will be required to detect the introduction of a patient with Ebola or other emerging infectious diseases, prevent the spread of Ebola, and manage the impact on patients, the hospital, and staff. Everyone inside a hospital, from the CEO to the management team to frontline workers, has a responsibility in meeting the following guidelines:
- Strict compliance with OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard is crucial, including the use of safer needles and sharps, as required in the BBP. SEIU fought for and won the BBP standard in 1991 and the safer needle requirement in the federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act signed into law in November, 2000. The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard explicitly requires the use of safety-engineered sharp devices and the active involvement of front-line workers in the evaluation and selection of these safer technologies. A 10-minute 2001 SEIU video, The Fight for Our Lives: How We Won Safer Needles, highlights our history with these victories and can be viewed at http://youtu.be/g51WkB9zpEk.
- The CDC guidance for Healthcare calls for standard, contact, and droplet precautions for management of hospitalized patients with known or suspected Ebola virus disease. As a part of the guidance, the CDC recommends the use of respiratory protection (at least an N95) during all aerosol-generating procedures performed on a suspect/known patient.
- Facilities must have a clear policy on pay and benefit protection for all workers placed on precautionary removal from their normal work because of possible Ebola exposure. Language requiring this is part of the California OSHA Aerosol Disease (ATD) Standard, which specifically covers Ebola. SEIU and the Nurse Alliance of California fought for and won the ATD standard in 2009, a unique occupational health standard protecting healthcare workers in California. Outside California, this or similar language should be in a facility’s plan:
“Where the Physician or other licensed health care professional (PLHCP) recommends precautionary removal, or where the local health officer recommends precautionary removal, the employer shall maintain until the employee is determined to be noninfectious, the employee’s earnings, seniority, and all other employee rights and benefits, including the employee’s right to his or her former job status, as if the employee had not been removed from his or her job or otherwise medically limited.”
Local unions and our members should be included in the development, periodic review and implementation of the plans. Our members’ involvement and experience are key to a plan that is effective in providing care for these patients while protecting the health and safety of our members.
This is a beginning. As information and guidance changes, we’ll provide updates and additional information to assist local unions in understanding issues around addressing the Ebola outbreaks and ways to help our employers during this public health emergency.
SEIU Nevada represents more than 3,200 employees at Dignity Health’s St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in the Las Vegas Valley, which includes three campuses – De Lima and Siena in Henderson, and San Martin in Las Vegas.
St. Rose is in the news this week, first for its $160 million expansion of the Siena campus, and second for Rod Davis, senior VP of operations of Dignity Health Nevada, being honored by the Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada. Read about each at the links below: