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AFSCME RN to Congress: “Government Must Protect Frontline Workers Fighting Pandemic Influenza”

May 08, 2009

May 8, 2009

Miguel García, AFSCME member and registered nurse, testifies before Congress.

Photo Credit: Luis Gómez

 

Stressing the need for comprehensive federal standards to protect health care workers in the face of a flu pandemic or the current outbreak of the H1N1 flu infection, AFSCME member and registered nurse Miguel García testified this week before Congress. García is a member of United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals and works at the Emergency Department at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.

“Currently there is no comprehensive federal standard to require employers to protect health care workers from an airborne virus like H1N1 or tuberculosis,” he stated during a hearing on “Ensuring Preparedness Against the Flu Virus at School and Work” before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor.

García pointed out how although there are federal guidelines in place, they are not mandatorily enforced. “Without clear mandatory rules, even the best employer may experience gaps in protecting its workers,” he said.

According to a recent survey of over 100 health care facilities across the country conducted by AFSCME and other unions, less than half the facilities surveyed (43 percent) have provided pandemic flu training to their workers. The report, “Health Care Workers In Peril: Preparing to Protect Worker Health and Safety During Pandemic Influenza,” concludes that workers face a very high risk of becoming infected when caring for patients with pandemic flu.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has the authority to make its current Pandemic Influenza Guidance for Healthcare Workers and Healthcare Employers mandatory. Such a measure, García said, “would send a clear signal to the public and health care workers that the government is proactive in protecting the workers who are needed to care for the sick in our communities.”

AFSCME represents more than 360,000 health care workers across the nation and is a leading voice in the fight for quality, affordable health care every American can count on.

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