On the Front Lines

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Nurses at a California hospital were not being provided with proper masks that could help keep them safe from contracting COVID-19. They are faced with the same problem as healthcare professionals from across the country: dangerous circumstances with improper equipment and compensation (photo courtesy of AP News).

Taylor Dent, Staff Writer

Every time the news is on, and healthcare workers are being discussed, it almost always starts with the same phrase, or some slight variation: “healthcare workers on the front lines,” drawing the comparison between a war and the fight against COVID-19. The virus is the opposing army, and healthcare professionals the brave soldiers fighting the battle. However, there is one thing that ruins this comparison: soldiers on the front lines get hazard pay for being in dangerous situations daily. Healthcare workers do not.

The United States Department of Labor’s website defines hazard pay as “additional pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship. Work duty that causes extreme physical discomfort and distress which is not adequately alleviated by protective devices is deemed to impose a physical hardship.”

Workers who are treating patients who have COVID-19 are required to have a mask, a gown and gloves before entering a patient’s room. Upon leaving that room, the gloves and gown have to come off to be replaced by new ones before entering a new patient’s room. All day long they have to do this, every 12-hour shift. Photos of doctors and nurses with bruises covering their faces have gone viral, showing the extremes that these workers will go to in order to fight this pandemic. Nurses in New York were forced to use trash bags in lieu of gowns because there was such a shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment).

These are absolutely abysmal working conditions and should absolutely fall under the umbrella established by the Department of Labor as “not adequately alleviated by protective devices.”

These amazing people are, quite literally, putting their lives on the line every single day they go to work. If they cannot be given the same considerations as others who work dangerous jobs, then the country has truly failed their healthcare workers.

 

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