Frontline Healthcare Workers Unveil New Report and Policy Recommendations for Protecting Worker Safety and Public Health During COVID-19 Pandemic

The report includes policy recommendations for state and local governments to help fix a broken healthcare system and racial injustices that have the COVID-19 pandemic.

ST. LOUIS – Frontline healthcare workers represented by SEIU Healthcare Missouri presented a new report on the first-hand experiences of hospital and nursing home workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and outlined recommendations to improve worker safety, protect public health, and advance racial justice. Workers were joined by St. Louis mayoral candidate Tishaura Jones, State Representatives Ashley Bland Manlove (D-Kansas City), Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette) and St. Louis Alderwoman Sarah Martin.
SEIU Healthcare members continue to report not feeling safe, that their employers aren’t listening, and a need to be paid more for the additional stress and danger brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. In a survey of approximately 250 workers in two Kansas City hospitals owned by Hospital Corporation of America, 89% of workers said they did NOT feel safe in their workplace. 
Ashley Mosley has worked as a cook at a nursing home facility in St. Louis County for 14 years:
“When the pandemic hit, it shook my facility to its core. Many healthcare workers quit on us because of fear, lack of child care, inadequate PPE, insufficient COVID testing for staff and residents, and no building entrance screenings. We have been risking our lives to save others. We have been putting our families and loved ones at risk to maintain quality care for our residents. We’ve even lost a beloved coworker because of her dedication to our facility during this pandemic.”
Shunda Whitfield, a veteran Certified Nursing Assistant, has worked at a nursing home facility in St. Louis County for 6 years:
“I treat my patients like family, but the fear of COVID has made it much harder to give them the care they deserve. I survived COVID, but couldn’t work for three months–when I returned, everyone was still scared and worried about having enough protection and getting sick. We have adjusted to a new way of living, but we need support from our state and local government to help make sure we can keep patients, coworkers and ourselves and our families safe.”
State Representative Ashley Bland Manlove’s district includes Research Medical Center in Kansas City, which employs many frontline healthcare workers. Rep. Bland Manlove has introduced House Bill 1103 to protect workers and patients, consistent with the policy recommendations put forth in the new report:

“Frontline workers are still facing awful shortages of safety equipment and risky working conditions. House Bill 1103 will mandate worker safety committees that will enact up-to-date safety plans and confront the racial inequities that have been laid bare by the pandemic,” said Representative Bland Manlove. “We need to take action now to prevent COVID-19 and its variants from spreading even further, and to keep workers and patients safe. I am proud to work with SEIU Healthcare and look forward to pushing forward with them on worker-inspired legislative solutions.”

“The courage of workers in the face of terrible conditions has pulled all of us through this terrible time,” said City of St. Louis Treasurer and mayoral candidate Tishaura Jones. “They need and deserve our support, not only to answer the needs that COVID has placed on our healthcare delivery, but to also right the inequities which have long plagued our healthcare systems. We cannot just talk about what needs to happen–now is the time for action and the implementation of this plan. I am prepared to join forces with SEIU on the following recommendations if elected Mayor of St. Louis.”

SEIU Healthcare Missouri’s new report includes the following – 

Recommendations for cities and counties:

  • Creating a $15 an hour Minimum Wage for City/County Contractors & Funding Recipients
  • Convene City-Wide Hospital & Nursing Home Safety Committees to set Industry Safety Standards
  • Create a COVID-19 Safety Ombudsman Position
  • Protect Workers from Retaliation for Reporting COVID-19 Safety Concerns
  • Provide Additional Supports to Workers During Pandemic such as free or subsidized public transportation passes, housing and child care assistance 

Recommendations for state legislation:

  • Increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025
  • Repeal the Preemption law to Allow Higher Municipal/County Min Wage
  • Amend Missouri Statute to Provide Emergency Powers to Home Rule Cities
  • Pass Proposed Worker Safety Committee Legislation – House Bill 1103
  • Pass Safe Staffing Legislation

A recording of Thursday’s virtual press conference is available here (Passcode: H6D?2@WK).

The full report can be viewed here