SEIU pushes for stronger measures to protect workers and residents from COVID-19
LIVONIA, Mich. – A nursing home resident in Livonia has tested positive for COVID-19, sending nursing home workers scrambling to protect themselves, their residents, and their families. The resident resides at Heartland Health Care Center, a ManorCare owned facility in Livonia.
The resident was known to have roamed freely around the failicity, according to union representatives at Heartland. Due to this, twenty to thirty employees may have been exposed to the resident. Currently, it is unknown if any other nursing home residents were exposed. Due to the long incubation periods, it is difficult to determine who may have been in contact with the resident while he was positive with COVID-19.
When SEIU Healthcare Michigan contacted the Heartland about the risk, administrators were unable to provide information about the numbers of workers and residents exposed to the resident.
“Heartland Healthcare Center and all nursing home owners need to be transparent and honest in reporting cases of COVID-19 and risks of exposure to the virus” said Andrea Acevedo, President of SEIU Healthcare Michigan, “We feel the workers, residents and the public needs to have full knowledge of the situation.”
Upon the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic in Michigan, SEIU Healthcare Michigan immediately took steps to ensure the safety of its over 6,000 nursing home workers that it represents in Metro Detroit.
On March 16th, SEIU Healthcare Michigan sent a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to all 66 nursing homes in Metro Detroit, outlining a series of actions that nursing homes needed to take to protect their workers. These actions included paid sick leave for workers exposed to COVID-19, free testing to all employees for COVID-19, proper protective gear for employees, and no retaliation for workers who reported potential COVID-19 exposure to their employers. Recently, SEIU added bonus pay for workers and financial assistance for childcare to it’s list.
Heartland is one of 35 nursing facilities owned by ManorCare in Michigan. At this date, ManorCare has not responded directly to SEIU’s MOU for worker and resident safety.
According to representatives of Heartland Health Care Center, the home is already in compliance with a majority of the demands by SEIU Healthcare Michigan. In an email on March 16th from ManorCare’s Director of Labor Relations, Robert Fuhr stated “all employees will be quarantined according to CDC guidelines because of travel, exposure in the community or exposure at work, and management will work with them on alternative arrangements to work from home if possible.”
“If quarantined employees are not able to work from home, they will be paid for the time scheduled that is missed during the 14 day quarantined period,” wrote Fuhr.
At this time, ManorCare has declined to offer financial assistance for medical bills or childcare services for workers impacted by COVID-19.
“Every day, nursing home workers are fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, risking their own health, safety, and well-being for those more vulnerable,” said Acevedo, “It’s disgusting that so few nursing homes are unwilling to do the same for their workers. Not only are workers at risk, but so are their families and loved ones.”
Majority of Nursing Homes Lack Protective Gear
At other nursing home facilities in Detroit, workers lack even the most basic protective gear to protect themselves and their residents from COVID-19. Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is one of 16 homes owned and operated by Villa Healthcare, a Skokie Illinois-based private for-profit nursing home chain, in Michigan. Villa has refused to provide for any COVID-19 testing and medical care for workers, and has rejected paid leave for staff who may come in contact with COVID-19.
At Ambassador Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, workers have not been provided masks and other protective equipment when caring for residents.
“We don’t have masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer as we should have,” said Tamara Blue, a nursing home worker at Ambassador, “They quarantined the residents to their rooms, but for workers, we are still bringing germs in and out because we don’t have gear.”
“A woman from the corporate office showed up and told us that we would not be provided with any masks,” said Mary McClendon, a certified nursing assistant at Ambassador, “She told us that if we wanted masks, we would need to buy them ourselves. That isn’t right.”
Trece Andrews, a worker at Regency at St. Clair Shores, says that some workers are refusing to work due to the lack of protective gear in the facility. Regency at St. Claire Shores is one of 42 Michigan nursing homes owned by Ciena, a private for-profit nursing home chain based in Southfield. To this date, Ciena has not responded to the MOU sent out by SEIU regarding workers safety and COVID-19.
“Many of us are trying to stay calm on the job, but it’s hard and very frustrating.” said Andrews, “The healthcare industry, and more specifically nursing homes, are some of the riskiest places to work and the necessary precautions aren’t being taken to protect us from exposure to the virus. We’re scared for ourselves, our families and the patients.”
SEIU is asking healthcare workers to contact them with any safety issues related to COVID-19 at firstname.lastname@example.org.