COVID-19 Healthcare Workers' Bill of Rights
The COVID-19 pandemic will end at some point, but the work of building a sustainable, high-functioning healthcare system that prioritizes patient care and protects the health and well-being of caregivers is just getting underway. Our Bill of Rights is a distillation of a more comprehensive policy document (English, Spanish) that outlines the minimum precautions and protocols that we believe must be put in place to keep healthcare workers safe. We have developed this policy agenda based on guidance from public health officials, research into best practices at healthcare facilities, and conversations with NUHW members — and we are presenting it to employers and political allies as part of a concerted effort to put these policies into practice.
Personal Protective Equipment
All healthcare workers have a right to appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If healthcare facilities do not have enough PPE, they must work to secure an adequate supply. This includes demanding that local, state, and federal officials increase acquisition and production of PPE.
Testing for COVID-19
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ensure appropriate staffing levels, healthcare facilities must provide healthcare workers with guaranteed access to rapid, point-of-care testing whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or not.
Safe work environment
Healthcare facilities must protect workers and patients by requiring that all visitors and workers wear masks and adhere to social distancing measures, and ensuring that engineering controls, like ventilation systems, meet necessary standards for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The influx of COVID-19 patients combined with the number of healthcare workers becoming sick creates a strain on staffing. Healthcare facilities must ensure staffing levels that keep healthcare workers and patients safe.
Healthcare facilities must provide training on all COVID-19 protocols for the safe and effective execution of healthcare workers’ duties.
New training or refreshers should be immediately provided if protocols are changed or added.
Mental health care
Healthcare workers are confronting intense pressure, stress, uncertainty, and trauma in the workplace as well as a high risk for infection. To help workers facing these conditions, healthcare facilities must provide access to high-quality mental healthcare services to employees at no cost.
Healthcare facilities need to provide safe, high-quality nearby housing accommodations for healthcare workers who choose not to return home in order to limit exposure to their family members — including some who may be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Work from home
When it will not compromise patient care, healthcare workers should be allowed to work from home, and healthcare facilities should arrange for the equipment and technology needed to do so effectively. This includes mental health workers, who are needed now more than ever.
Input and accountability
Healthcare workers should have input in decisions on staffing, PPE, infection control protocols, surge planning, and any other changes that impact their work. And workers should never be disciplined for blowing the whistle on hospital failures.
Care for caregivers
Healthcare workers need additional paid time off to care for themselves or their families, presumptive eligibility for workers compensation for COVID-19 illness, and childcare support to continue working during the COVID-19 pandemic.