Healthcare Workers Losing Their Lives on the Frontlines
August 7, 2020
According to a project launched by The Guardian and KHN (Kaiser Health News) called Lost on the Frontline, almost 600 healthcare workers have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic first hit the United States. The death toll includes healthcare workers like nurses, doctors and paramedics along with support staff like hospital administrators, nursing home workers, cafeteria aids and janitors. Despite the fact that these workers put their lives on the line every day to help keep others safe, a lack of lifesaving resources coupled by insufficient administrative policies continue to endanger them.
COVID-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness that spreads primarily through the droplets produced by an infected person when they cough, sneeze, or speak. Because healthcare workers and medical support staff have an increased risk for contracting COVID-19 due to higher levels of exposure and contact, it is particularly critical to ensure them access to effective PPE in order to inhibit transmission. However, thousands of healthcare professionals across the country tell similar stories about a lack of PPE and serious administrative failures to report when staff members (or even patients) have tested positive for Coronavirus.
Issues with Reporting
Not all healthcare facilities have COVID reporting policies. Facilities with reporting requirements must notify medical workers and support personnel after exposure to patients or coworkers who test positive for COVID-19. However, individuals working at facilities without disclosure policies are left in the lurch. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have encouraged hospitals to consider giving up contact tracing (which involves identifying infected individuals and instructing them to quarantine) in favor of implementing symptom screening at the beginning of each shift and requiring universal masking of employees and patients.
The failure to report when a coworker or patient has tested positive for Coronavirus not only endangers the medical worker’s life who encountered them, but also the lives of their loved ones who live under the same roof. Some medical facilities say that instead of contact tracing they are trying to inhibit these dangers by asking medical personnel to monitor themselves for symptoms and to self-quarantine if they believe they are sick – but so far this has proven to be a less-than-ideal method.
Personal Protective Equipment Shortages
Many healthcare workers say that the CDC guideline that allows healthcare workers to wear surgical masks instead of N-95 respirators fails to provide comprehensive protections. Others complain that they are facing PPE shortages so severe that they must wear the same mask repeatedly and in some cases that they even have to construct their own protective surgical gowns or scrubs out of items like trash bags. Not every hospital cafeteria across the country requires its food service employees to wear masks, and many still have not installed protective barriers around checkout areas.
Failures like these put entire communities at risk. While we are still learning more about COVID-19 every day, we do know that taking precautions is critical when it comes to saving lives. We must continue to improve policies and guidelines so that we can better keep them safe just as they do for us every day.
If you are a healthcare worker injured because of safety and health failures in your workplace, someone at our firm can help. Contact a representative online now who can answer your questions.
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