Hospital support staff seek better pay and protections from COVID-19

Coronavirus Pandemic

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Safety concerns at hospitals have prompted support staff who work for HCA Midwest to create their own COVID-19 exposure control plan.

Attention has been focused on the shortage of personal protective equipment for nurses and doctors. However, housekeeping and food service workers claim there are even fewer safeguards in place for them.

Nationally, more than 1,700 health care workers have died so far from COVID-19. About 200,000 have contracted the virus. Tanyece Stephens is one of them.

The food service worker at Research Medical Center missed two weeks of work. She said the virus drained the energy out of her, and she suffered bad headaches that she believes could have been avoided had the hospital taken steps to protect workers like her.

“There are times I have to deliver food trays to the nursing stations on COVID-19 floors because of short staffing in our unit,” Stephens said. “That compromises safety of workers because the N-95 mask is not mandated for all workers who must go to the unit floor, the COVID floors.”

The hospital support workers want HCA Midwest to match the minimum pay scale of $15 an hour recently established at Saint Luke’s Hospital. The workers’ COVID control plan also includes mandatory coronavirus safety training for all employees, screening tests and paid sick leave.

About 600 workers at Research and up to another 300 at Menorah are represented by the Service Employees International Union, which is presenting the plan again today to HCA management.
So far, the union said the company has rejected all aspects of it.

In a prepared statement, Christine Hamele, a vice president of the for-profit health care chain said, in part: “We take our colleagues’ personal health and safety very seriously and we remain vigilant in doing so. We encourage the union to work with, not against, us during a time when the entire healthcare community should be coming together to protect and care for each other and our communities.”

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