Commentary: Essential health care workers need support – San Antonio Express-News

Many college students have a part-time job along with their college responsibilities. Mine is an overnight 12-hour shift at a hospital. Never did I think I would feel scared for my health and life working in a hospital.

The health care industry is not light work, especially during this pandemic. COVID-19 patients have put more stress on doctors, hospital administration, nurses, aides, maintenance staff and the other essential workers who keep the patient traffic flowing.

As of May, more than 60,000 U.S. health care workers have been infected by COVID-19, and over 300 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I was one of the many who became ill with COVID-19. There was no hazard pay or bonuses, just snacks for the hospital staff in one of the break rooms.

The availability of hospital beds in San Antonio is about 14 percent, according to the city. If more health care workers were to get COVID-19 and fall critically ill, there would not be beds available for us.

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The Heroes Act could have helped many families because it calls for paid sick days, medical leave and pandemic premium pay for essential workers. Without it, if a hospital worker gets sick from COVID-19, he or she may have to use paid time off. Those without enough paid time off would take unpaid medical leave to recover. Other versions of the Heroes Act have been introduced but are stuck in a partisan stalemate.

The obvious problem is that a bill to compensate health care workers won’t be passed, period.

On the contrary, a bill by Sen. Charles “Chuck” Grassley, R-Iowa, was introduced in May at the same time as the Heroes Act. However, this one — the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 — was passed on Aug. 14.

This bill extends death and disability benefits to public safety officers — including paramedics and firefighters — whose death or illness is caused by COVID-19. The program also provides education benefits to public safety officers or their families if an officer is killed or injured in the line of duty.

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Essential employees in health care feel like our lives don’t matter, even after all our hard work throughout the pandemic. It’s a slap in the face to not receive any type of hazard pay. We should not have to wait to receive benefits until we are disabled or dead. We have families to care for. It is a matter of social injustice — and ignorance about the dignity and worth of essential health care workers — for Congress to stall the Heroes Act or any other bill that recognizes our tireless contributions.

The reason this matter is important to me is that I am both a graduate student and a health care worker. As a future social worker, I will continue to advocate for dignity and justice.

Evelyn Garcia is hospital worker and a graduate student at Our Lady of the Lake University.

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Author: The Covid-19 Channel