No Hazard Pay For Covid-19 Front-line Medical Professionals, While Hospitals Get Rescue Money

I have written several articles on the coronavirus and on masks. A series of links have been provided at the bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address a different aspect of the virus.

The trillions in federal relief money has not included raises for front-line workers. Many also don’t get paid sick leave because of a legislative exclusion.

Lawmakers have not approved emergency pay for doctors, nurses and other medical personnel on the front lines of the covid-19 pandemic, nearly a month after President Trump and top Democrats expressed support for such a move. The omission of aid for health workers is striking after Congress approved trillions of dollars in assistance for vast sectors of the economy. It is also surprising because it appears to be one of the less controversial ideas for responding to the pandemic, as members of Congress in both parties lavish praise on doctors, nurses and first responders. “If anybody’s entitled to it, they are,” Trump told Fox News on March 30 when asked about proposals to give “hazard pay” to front-line medical personnel. “These are really brave people. Actually, they are warriors, in a sense.” But a proposal to offer such aid has not been seriously considered during negotiations over any of the four bills approved by Congress to respond to the novel coronavirus, according to a half-dozen congressional aides. White House spokesman Judd Deere said negotiations with Congress continue. A White House statement noted that billions of dollars have been approved for hospitals, which could help pay worker bonuses, among a variety of other expenses. There’s no evidence yet hospitals are doing that. The White House did not respond when asked whether Trump has taken any action to pursue hazard pay specifically for medical workers. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has released a proposal for a “Heroes Fund” that would give up to $25,000 per person for a broad category of front-line workers including doctors and nurses — as well as other essential personnel such as grocery workers and delivery drivers. The White House declined to comment on Schumer’s proposal.

“President Trump is already working with Congress to ensure these brave men and women are properly compensated for their incredible work,” Deere said in a statement. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has also said he hopes to see hazard pay included the next aid package. Congressional aides caution it could be weeks before such a measure is approved. More than 45 nurses in the United States have died of covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes, while at least a half-dozen doctors have died in states including Arizona, Michigan, Florida and New York. Concerns about compensation for medical workers go beyond additional hazard pay. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act that Congress passed in March specifically excludes health-care companies and firms with more than 500 employees from having to give two weeks of paid sick leave. Up to 13 million health workers and other emergency responders, including some nurses and hospital cleaning employees, won’t get two weeks of emergency sick pay because of the way Congress wrote the law, according to Labor Department estimates. Front-line workers say extra hazard wages or sick pay could make a big difference for them. Delma Garza, a nurse at a long-term-care facility in Texas, said she was instructed to stay home for the first two weeks of April because she had been exposed to another worker who tested positive for the coronavirus at the facility. But Garza said she was not paid during her quarantine. (Washington Post, “White House, Congress have not given any hazard pay to the medical workers they call heroes,” By Jeff Stein and Heather Long).

The nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains have received a total of about $2.2 billion in federal grants so far, which is intended to provide financial relief to hospitals and providers amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and the havoc it has wreaked on their operations.

The money comes from $175 billion earmarked for providers, allocated by Congress through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. It was meant to serve as a lifeline for providers as they’ve been forced to all but stop a significant portion of their business, specifically those service lines that tend to be more profitable like orthopaedic procedures.

HCA, the largest among the for-profits, received the most in CARES funding, about $1 billion, which it disclosed to Healthcare Dive on Friday. The funding is about 2% of HCA’s total 2019 revenue. Tenet, CHS and UHS followed behind with grant allocations of $517 million, $420 million and $239 million, respectively. The money is supposed to be spent on healthcare-related expenses and lost revenue related to COVID-19.

So, while hospitals are getting relief money, nurses and other healthcare professionals are getting no supplemental pay, while they routinely risk their lives, with little PPE gear. They are being forced to work over-time in many hospitals, reuse single use PPE gear, and work in unsafe working conditions. Many hospitals are forcing IMC nurses to take 5 patient Assignments with no CNA support, and ICU nurses are routinely taking 3 patient Assignments. Most of these assignments include multiple Covid-19 positive patients. Many ICU patient treatment plans involve CRRT (continuous renal replacement therapies) which requires the nurse to sit in close proximity to the Positive covid patient for up to 12 hours. So teachers give me a break, I am crying for you. How do I know these things, you may ask. I am an ICU nurse. All we are asking for is sufficient staffing, our hazard pay and some appreciation for a job well done.

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