Fountain Valley respiratory workers win COVID pay bonus

NewsJanuary 26, 2021

As COVID-19 cases surged in Southern California, respiratory therapists found themselves struggling to care for double or triple as many patients per shift.

The caregivers worked through their breaks and did double shifts intent on doing everything they could to help patients and help their hospital get through the ongoing crisis.

However, hospital management showed no interest in helping these caregivers. After offering a shift bonus to nurses, the hospital initially refused to offer any bonus for respiratory therapists to take on extra shifts as the surge continued to worsen.

The therapists weren’t about to abandon their patients, but they also weren’t going to accept second class status from their hospital. They demanded an extra shift bonus to help ensure adequate staffing, and when the hospital only offered $500 they took their concerns public.

“We are running on skeleton crews, and our skeleton crews are already running on empty. We are working extremely hard, without breaks and without lunch, and we are still unable to care for these patients,” respiratory therapist Annie Do told the Los Angeles Times, adding that employees’ pleas for assistance have fallen on deaf ears.

“At this point, we are in a crisis situation,” she told the paper. “Our licenses are on the line. These patients’ lives are on the line. And they are dying — that’s a fact.”

Soon thereafter, the respiratory therapists reached an agreement with management on a temporary $1,000 bonus for taking on an extra shift. The bonus won’t make their jobs any easier as the surge continues, but it will make a difference for the caregivers and their patients

“This bonus will improve care at a critical juncture and recognize the sacrifices all of us have been making to care for patients,” said Christina Rodriguez, a respiratory therapist Fountain Valley shortly after the agreement was reached. “We don’t have enough respiratory therapists to fully cope with this surge. This bonus is an acknowledgement that our department is severely understaffed and that is a problem we must fix now and after the pandemic is over.”