A union representing nurses in Los Angeles County Wednesday called for the federal government to immediately implement the Defense Production Act to request companies make needed protective supplies for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.
Service Employees International Union Local 2015, the nation's largest long-term care union representing 400,000 nursing home and home care workers throughout the state, said nursing home workers -- and other health care workers -- do not have close to adequate protection with COVID-19 outbreaks already beginning to impact nursing homes.
"Our members are truly on the front lines of this crisis," said April Verrett, president of SEIU Local 2015. "They are providing vital care to the nation's most at-risk population on a daily basis.
"These workers are putting themselves in harm's way every day that they go without proper protective equipment, and that ends now. We implore our leaders in Washington to look past political squabbles and join us in doing what's right for all working people."
Joining the union in the call to action in Wednesday's conference call with reporters were Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Crystal Solorzano, CEO of ReNew Health Group.
The coalition calls on Congress to ensure that health care workers, providers and states have the resources to meet the incredible demand facing them and support the production of more medical supplies.
SEIU Local 2015 addressed key actions that should be taken up to support those who need PPE to safely care for those in need:
-- Applications of the Defense Production Act to order domestic manufacturing industries to make products the nation needs in a time of crisis;
-- immediate distribution of the masks and equipment held in the Strategic National Stockpile;
-- identify reserves of masks and equipment in other industries, such as construction, and redistributing them to healthcare workers; and
-- use all powers of the federal government to speed immediate production of new supplies and ensure they are routed to states for distribution across acute care, home care and long-term care settings.
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"This is an unprecedented crisis not just in California, but across the country," Reyes said.
"We are working closely with the governor's office to identify additional supplies, but it's just not enough. We need Washington to step up now for the workers of this state."
Should COVID-19 take hold in the nursing home community the result would undoubtedly be a catastrophic increase in fatalities, the union stated.
SEIU Local 2015's members support residents who are at the extreme end
of the risk spectrum for experiencing adverse effects of COVID-19 should they contract the virus.
This includes people who live with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and diabetes.
"As a practicing pediatrician, I have seen firsthand the impact this outbreak is having on not just the sick, but on those who care for them," Pan said.
"It is vital that our nursing home workers -- and all health care workers in the state -- are provided with appropriate safety equipment. There is no time to waste. The federal government must act now."
Solorzano said nursing home residents ``constitute the most at-risk group with regard to this outbreak. In most cases, they are elderly and suffering from pre-existing conditions, many of which are respiratory in nature."
"We need to know our employees and residents are being kept safe, and that is not the case right now," Solorzano said. "That is why we are standing with SEIU Local 2015 in making this request."