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Health & Science

Nursing Home Workers Say They Don't Have Enough COVID-19 PPE

man in nursing home
Yuganov Konstantin
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Ohio nursing homes started allowing indoor visitation in October, relaxing former COVID-19 regulations that prevented it.

Ohio set a new record this week, with more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Throughout the pandemic, nursing homes have been hotspots for the virus, with a large percentage of the deaths, but workers and their unions have complained they don't have proper protective equipment.

Chaundra Kidd, a nursing assistant at Cityview Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Cleveland, said staff at her facility often do not have enough personal protective equipment or PPE.

"If you're going to work on the COVID unit, you may not even have all the essentials that you need to work on that unit,” Kidd said. “You got to go scrounge around trying to find the PPE. There's just not enough of everything, period."

Kidd has used the same three N-95 masks over and over since the beginning of the pandemic, she said.  She sterilizes the masks by bleaching them at home.

Cityview Healthcare did not respond to ideastream's request for a response to Kidd's claim.

A recent study of data complied from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that about 34 percent of Ohio nursing homes had only a one-week supply of personal protective equipment for their workers, during a four-week period during  August and September. The data and report were published by the AARP.

Kidd does her job every day knowing the risks to herself and her family, she said.

"I'm a diabetic and I'm very much open to coronavirus because I have this. In our jobs, it doesn't matter if you're diabetic, you still have to go into work, you still have to do what you've gotta do,” she said. “All I can do is keep my hands washed, keep my sanitizer by me, and glove up, mask up, gown up," she said.

Nursing home workers often earn less than registered nurses or other healthcare workers, said Anthony Caldwell, Director of Public Affairs for SEIU District 1199, the union which represents some healthcare workers in nursing homes.

“But the type of work that nursing home workers do is just so critically important to the seniors and people with disabilities that are in these facilities that really need them,” Caldwell said.

The rate of pay, which is often just slightly above the state’s minimum wage, is barely enough to support themselves or their families, he said.

Nationally, long-term care facilities account for about 8 percent of all cases of the coronavirus, but 40 percent of all deaths in the U.S., according to analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation in October.

Cuyahoga County has seen more than 1,700 cumulative coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities throughout the pandemic, according to data from the state.

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