by Valerie Dimond
, Contributing Reporter | July 29, 2020
"This is why we need the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to pass an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases to mandate that healthcare employers provide protections needed for COVID-19,” said Castillo. “We also need President Trump to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to order the mass production of PPE now. And, finally, we need the Senate to pass the HEROES Act, which contains language on the DPA and mandates an OSHA standard on infectious diseases."
The NNU had already petitioned OSHA on March 4 for the standard but said they never received a response. That prompted nurses to protest in front of the White House
a month later to demand the OSHA standard, as well as mass production of protective equipment for healthcare workers.
“I think you people have been having a hard time,” Trump told a group of healthcare executives gathered at the White House several months ago. “From what I’m understanding, you’re having a hard time and I understand that very well.”
But it wasn’t until earlier this month that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began distributing a second round of financial help — $10 billion in CARES Act Funding
— to hospitals, including in hot spots that are dealing with increasing COVID-19 cases.
"At a time when the skills of registered nurses and other healthcare workers are most needed, it is unconscionable that they are being treated as if their lives are worth less than others with this utter disregard for their safety,” said Castillo. “Nurses are willing to be at the bedside caring for COVID-19 patients; their employers should be willing to protect them. Sadly, that's not the case.”
A couple of days ago Senate Republicans released a fourth COVID-19 stimulus package, which includes the HEALS Act (health, economic assistance, liability protection and schools.)
“Chairman Graham is introducing a package of legislation that will incentivize PPE manufacturing here at home,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in a prepared statement. “It will ensure that our efforts to rebuild our national stockpile of protective gear actually benefit American workers instead of just stimulating China.”
But the NNU says the package still fails to meet the needs of nurses and other healthcare workers on the front lines of COVID-19, particularly the HEALS Act.
“Despite the ongoing dire situation in our nation's hospitals, Senate Republicans have failed to include any provisions in the HEALS Act that would protect nurses and our patients,” Castillo said. “Senate Republicans once again abandoned nurses and our patients."
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