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Sun Aug 23, 2020, 12:46 AM

Amid coronavirus surge in California, hospital workers say they're not protected

Workers at Fountain Valley have repeatedly raised alarms in recent weeks about hospital practices they fear leave them vulnerable to the coronavirus — including lack of testing, reuse of personal protective equipment and subpar infection controls — by writing to the CEO, calling lawmakers and staging two demonstrations outside the hospital. In July, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents employees like Nguyen, submitted a complaint to the California Department of Public Health, which the union said prompted an investigation that continues. (The department said that complaints are confidential and that it couldn't comment on any investigations.)

Up and down California, where COVID-19 cases spiked through July and into August, health care personnel in hospitals say they're facing working conditions that leave them vulnerable to the coronavirus. Health care workers and their unions have tried to improve their situation facility by facility — one even held a five-day strike at a Santa Rosa hospital last month — but they have made little headway. Six months into the pandemic, they say they are still forced to reuse protective equipment and are denied testing by their own hospitals. Now, many say they need government intervention.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers has asked the state government to issue new rules requiring testing of all newly admitted hospital patients for COVID-19, as well as baseline and exposure-driven testing of health care personnel. Sal Rosselli, the union's president, said it presented its plan recently to Gov. Gavin Newsom and other top state officials, who seemed receptive. (Newsom's office didn't respond to a request for comment.)

"No provider was ready for this pandemic — it was chaos, and it continues to be very chaotic," Rosselli said. "But the fact that workers that treat these patients every day or clean their rooms can't get tested even when they have symptoms, or even when they're exposed, is the demonstration that this industry is driven by profit and not by providing adequate care."


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