State investigators must inspect hospitals before resolving workplace safety complaints during the coronavirus pandemic, Nevada’s largest health care union formally demanded Friday.
In a two-page letter sent to the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Nevada chapter of Service Employees International Union outlined hazards it alleges are still ongoing at a swath of large hospitals across the state.
Among the union’s allegations:
— Front-line health care workers are being forced to reuse protective equipment meant for a single use. Additionally, some hospital staff were not being provided proper safety equipment.
— Hospital workers who are at risk for coronavirus complications, or have at-risk family members, are being required to treat and work near coronavirus patients.
— Hospital workers are being exposed to patients with coronavirus symptoms but are never informed if the patients tested positive for the virus. Those same workers were later diagnosed with the disease themselves.
Since Nevada’s coronavirus outbreak began in early March, OSHA has received at least 26 complaints against the state’s hospitals, more than the agency typically receives in an entire year.
Earlier this week, SEIU Local 1107 criticized the state agency for not conducting on-site inspections to determine the validity of complaints. Instead, OSHA reports it is resolving them through written inquiries to protect the health and safety of its 14 investigators.
“Their unwillingness to even step foot in the building that they know that we are being asked to do things that aren’t safe,” said union board member Jody Domineck, a registered nurse at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. “I believe that is absolutely them turning their backs on us.”
“Local 1107 believes this manner of investigating complaints is inadequate to ensure the health and safety of our front-line health care workers as well as the community at large,” labor attorney Paul Cotsonis wrote in the union’s letter to OSHA.
OSHA spokeswoman Teri Williams wrote in an email that the agency had received SEIU Local 1107’s letter and was reviewing the union’s concerns.