SEIU Healthcare workers lay out demands for Governor Parson as COVID-19 outbreak expands in Missouri

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Hospital, nursing home, and home care workers highlight need for protective gear, paid sick leave, access to free testing and treatment


SEIU Healthcare Missouri members working in hospitals, nursing homes, and home care in Kansas City and St. Louis this morning called on Missouri Governor Mike Parson to do more to protect the health and safety of all by implementing a statewide stay-at-home order, securing adequate personal protective equipment, mandating immediate access to paid leave for healthcare workers exposed or infected with COVID-19, free testing and treatment, child care and transportation assistance, and a number of other provisions laid out in a letter to the governor.

"Our members, and tens of thousands of fellow healthcare workers across Missouri, are risking their health and safety and putting their families at risk when they return home each night," said Lenny Jones, vice president and state director at SEIU Healthcare Missouri Kansas. "The lack of support and leadership from our state government is unacceptable. There is no time to delay, COVID-19 is here and action to protect those on the front lines must be swift and comprehensive."

REUSING MASKS, SHORTAGES OF GLOVES AND GOWNS
From reusing masks to shortages of gloves and gowns, healthcare workers are deeply concerned about their ability to protect themselves, their families, and the people they serve each day from further spread of the virus.

Uncertainties about what will happen if they are exposed or contract the virus without access to paid sick time and free testing and treatment is creating additional anxiety across the state.

"Some of our members do not have access to goggles, full-face shields, gowns, or nonsterile gloves," said Caprice Nevils, a Care Partner at St. Louis University Hospital and an SEIU Healthcare Missouri Executive Board member. "Those of us on the front lines need Governor Parson to step up at this crucial moment and make sure we are equipped to deal with this deadly virus."

BALANCING PATIENT CARE WITH HEALTH, FINANCIAL RISK
Healthcare workers should be focused on serving patients in our hospitals, residents in our nursing homes, and those receiving care in a home-based setting, the union said. Instead, they are being forced to grapple with the potential of financial ruin if they get sick while continuing to serve their patients, clients and communities.

"I am a home care worker and I provide important services for our elderly and fragile patients," explained Elinor Simmons, a St. Louis home care worker. "This week, there were questions about whether or not gloves and masks would be available for home care workers. We need Governor Parson to make sure that this problem is addressed immediately and that we have access to paid leave in the event that we are exposed. Without paid sick time, many of us would be devastated financially."

"I have four children and I took off during their spring back, using my PTO," said Ebony Smith, a CNA from Truman Medical Center Lakewood in Kansas City, MO. "Now it's time to go back to work, but I can't find child care. I want to be focused on my patients right now, yet I'm constantly worried about who is going to look after my children while the schools remain closed."

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