As state officials took steps to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus, labor leaders contemplated how to address staffing shortages in nursing homes should an outbreak occur in Connecticut.
Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199, the largest health-care worker union in the state, wrote to managers of those facilities asking them to outline a plan for securing enough staff, setting up isolation rooms and managing sick leave policies.
The union is concerned the coronavirus will test an already-strapped system.
“How austere can you be in the health care sector and be ready to face a situation like this?” Pedro Zayas, a spokesman for 1199, said. “On a regular day, a lot of these homes are short staffed, so it would be a tragedy if people start getting sick. Who is going to keep caring for nursing home residents?”
Labor officials also are considering how to help home-care workers, many of whom can’t afford to miss a shift and don’t have paid sick leave.
“We want to discourage them from showing up when they’re sick, but there is no safeguard for them in terms of sick days or vacation days,” Zayas said. “If they don’t show up, they don’t get paid. And as the lowest-paid workers, most of them are living a paycheck behind, not paycheck to paycheck.”
Chelsea Daniels, a nurse at Fresh River Healthcare nursing home in East Windsor, said Monday that staff had not yet received guidance on how to prepare or respond to a coronavirus outbreak.
Instead, they are operating under the same rules used when people get the flu – shutting down the areas affected by the virus and limiting the number of employees who can access those places. They also may limit visits from loved ones and recommend that sick workers stay home.