Coalition calls on federal government to address urgent needs and safety of nursing home workers statewide during COVID-19 crisis as well as the application of the Defense Production Act
Los Angeles, CA — April 1, 2020 — Today, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015, the nation’s largest long-term care union representing 400,000 nursing home and home care workers throughout California, addressed the pressing needs of its members who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining with SEIU Local 2015 in this urgent call to action were California state representatives Reyes (Assembly) and Pan (Senate), CEO of ReNew Health Group and nursing home workers. Specifically, the coalition is focused on the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) being provided to both employers and employees throughout the state, and the lack of response from the federal government including the implementation of the Defense Production Act to request companies make needed supplies.
“Our members are truly on the front lines of this crisis. They are providing vital care to the nation’s most at-risk population on a daily basis,” said April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015. “These workers are putting themselves in harm’s way every day that they go without proper protective equipment, and that ends now. We implore our leaders in Washington to look past political squabbles and join us in doing what’s right for all working people.”
Reports from across the country show that nursing home workers – and other health care workers – do not have close to adequate protection with COVID-19 outbreaks already beginning to impact nursing homes. Specifically, a Yucaipa facility in California has recently reported over 50 infections and two deaths thus far escalating the need for action. The coalition calls on Congress to ensure that healthcare workers, providers and states have the resources to meet the incredible demand facing them and support the production of more medical supplies. SEIU Local 2015 addressed key actions that should be taken up to support those who need PPE to safely care for those in need:
- Applications of the Defense Production Act to order domestic manufacturing industries to make products the nation needs in a time of crisis.
- Immediate distribution of the masks and equipment held in the Strategic National Stockpile.
- Identify reserves of masks and equipment in other industries, such as construction, and redistributing them to healthcare workers.
- Use all powers of the federal government to speed immediate production of new supplies and ensure they are routed to states for distribution across acute care, home care and long-term care settings.
“This is an unprecedented crisis not just in California, but across the country. We are working closely with the Governor’s office to identify additional supplies, but it’s just not enough. We need Washington to step up now for the workers of this state,” said Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes.
“As a practicing pediatrician, I have seen firsthand the impact this outbreak is having on not just the sick, but on those who care for them. It is vital that our nursing home workers – and all health care workers in the state – are provided with appropriate safety equipment. There is no time to waste. The federal government must act now,” said Senator Richard Pan.
Should COVID-19 take hold in the nursing home community, the result would undoubtedly be a catastrophic increase in fatalities. SEIU Local 2015’s members support residents who are at the extreme end of the risk spectrum for experiencing adverse effects of COVID-19 should they contract the virus. This includes people who live with conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, heart disease and diabetes. The heads of nursing home facilities throughout California are searching for answers as well.
“Our residents constitute the most at-risk group with regard to this outbreak; in most cases, they are elderly and suffering from pre-existing conditions, many of which are respiratory in nature,” said Crystal Solorzano, CEO of ReNew Health Group. “We need to know our employees and residents are being kept safe, and that is not the case right now. That is why we are standing with SEIU Local 2015 in making this request today.”
“For the past few weeks, I have been using makeshift masks and gowns every day on the job,” said Maria Cecilia, SEIU Local 2015 member and ReNew Health Group employee. “All of my coworkers are in a similar position. We just can’t continue on like this.”
As seen at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington – where two-thirds of residents and 47 workers fell ill – COVID-19 represents an existential threat to nursing homes across California and the country. As many as 370,000 Californians are cared for annually in licensed long-term care facilities. SEIU Local 2015 remains committed to championing their 400,000 members and the 616,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities their members care for.