SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Days before the California State Assembly faces a deadline to vote on bills introduced in the chamber, healthcare workers and community leaders rallied and lead a caravan on Monday, May 24 at Community Hospital of San Bernardino to urge Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) and other lawmakers to support the Health Care Worker Recognition and Retention Act (AB 650).
After a year of hardship and trauma related to the COVID-19 crisis, many California healthcare workers are struggling to cope.
“During this pandemic, healthcare workers faced what we’d most feared, dealing with dangerous working conditions such as not enough masks for all staff, being asked to re-use masks or other PPE, and long, arduous shifts with few or no breaks,” said Zelda Aaron, a licensed clinical social worker at Community Hospital of San Bernardino. “Battling this deadly virus for more than a year has taken a drastic toll on the physical and mental wellbeing of healthcare workers. We are calling on the California State Assembly to pass AB 650 so we can get the recognition we deserve.”
Throughout the pandemic, healthcare workers have faced dangerous and grueling working conditions. Caregivers have experienced physical fatigue and emotional trauma. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, roughly three in ten healthcare workers have considered leaving their job since the beginning of the pandemic.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we struggled to get the proper protective equipment and I was beyond afraid. It was physically and emotionally stressful and I felt very unappreciated. During the surges, it was always too many patients and not enough staff,” said Susan Chea, an orderly at Community Hospital of San Bernardino. “After a year of battling COVID-19, I ask myself, how do you keep quality employees in the health system after all that we went through?”
The Health Care Worker Recognition and Retention Act (AB 650) is sponsored by SEIU California and aims to recognize the incredible efforts and sacrifices health care workers have made, and to improve the retention of the healthcare workforce, especially in light of the pre-pandemic shortage of workers needed to meet California’s growing healthcare demands. The legislation would require private health care companies with more than 100 employees to pay bonuses to all non-executive employees who worked during the pandemic.