The Convention endorsed the resolution "Rights of the Healthcare Worker," containing a pointed indictment of conditions hazardous to workers and patients alike and recommendations for solutions. Delegates spoke from their experiences as both healthcare workers and healthcare consumers, emphasizing the dangers and unfairness of understaffing, and the urgent need for better pay and working conditions for those who provide care to the sick and injured.
Judy Hice, Local 1004, works at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, although not in direct patient care. As both a consumer and worker, "I see what’s going on," Hice said. The staff is being run into the ground by a management that thinks the hospital operates only between 8 and 5; "they don’t know, don’t care," she asserted.
"Until we had a contract, we had no hope of getting management to work on problems," Hice said. With the union, "we now have tools to work with, we have a way of getting management’s attention without getting fired for it," she told the convention.
'ISSUE IS NOT PAY,
The biggest problem is not pay but the inability to give proper care, Hice said. Staff are doing two to three times the amount of work for the same pay, and subjected to "all kinds of germs and diseases." Workers need proper rest, but if they stay home they are reprimanded. "We need to put a stop to it, we need to do it now," Hice proclaimed.
With 25 years’ service in a North Carolina facility, Greather Grantham, Local 150, spoke from experience in saying, "we definitely have a problem with the staff-patient ratio." The influx of patients places a further burden on that ratio, she said.
As a worker in a mental health facility, Clarence Hairston, Local 150, spoke to the on-the-job danger created by mandatory overtime and long hours. The situation is worsened, he said, by low pay that forces workers to take second jobs.
"These recommendations are badly need, the quality of care is going down," declared Rodney McCraw, Local 1174. "We need to help our brothers and sisters get their standards back up."
UNDERSTAFFING AND CARE
Lynda Leech, Local 618, agreed. Her mother is receiving good care in an institution from workers forced to work 12-hours and weekends for poor pay. Healthcare workers, she said, "deserve a better break than they’re getting." Kim Peniska, Local 1187, decried the long hours, lack of benefits and poor pay afflicting many workers caring for the sick and elderly. "They’ve got to handle people, they’re not working in a hamburger joint," he said. "They need to make $15 an hour with benefits!"
Understaffing hurts workers and patients, said Shirley Thrush, Local 799, who advocated steps to make health care professions more attractive.
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