Four months into a worsening pandemic, there are still no requirements in place to regularly test and monitor most healthcare workers to determine if they have been infected and could be spreading COVID-19 inside or outside their facilities. Not only are caregivers at hospitals, correctional facilities and home health agencies not regularly tested for the coronavirus, they are often denied tests even after their employer has informed them that they have been exposed.
The National Union of Healthcare Workers is proposing a testing regimen for caregivers and patients in California following COVID-19 outbreaks in multiple hospitals, including one that infected more than two dozen caregivers and claimed the life of a nurse. In other cases, one worker was denied a test even though he lived with family members who had tested positive and another worker had to pay to get herself admitted into her hospital's emergency room in order to obtain a test. Both workers ultimately tested positive.
"Our priorities are completely warped," NUHW President Sal Rosselli said. "How can it be that in order to safely play NBA basketball and Major League Baseball games players have to be tested at least every other day, but most of the workers caring for people with COVID-19 can't get a test? These are billion-dollar healthcare organizations. They have no excuse not to be testing the workers whose health they are failing to protect."
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Only nursing home workers in California are required to be regularly tested for COVID-19. And that's only because the California Department of Public Health, at the direction of Gov. Gavin Newsom, in May established requirements to test caregivers once a month in facilities with no infections and weekly at facilities with either COVID-19 positive patients or staff.
NUHW is proposing CDPH's testing regulations for nursing homes be extended to correctional facilities and is proposing a modified version be extended to healthcare workers at inpatient facilities and home health agencies.
The union's plan would require:
1. Routine testing of caregivers so that every worker is tested at least once per month.
2. Caregivers to be tested whenever they are potentially exposed to the coronavirus, such as not wearing adequate PPE when treating a patient who is later determined to have the virus.
3. All newly admitted, re-admitted, and newly treated patients to be tested for COVID-19 to lower the risk of spread to caregivers and other patients.