Union wants New Jersey hospitals to report employee COVID-19 infections

Coronavirus

NEW JERSEY — As the number of COVID-19 cases surge in the Garden State, front line medical workers are also getting sick. And now, a health care workers union is calling on the state to track hospital outbreaks.

“Inside our hospital, we struggle to reduce exposures to COVID,” critical care nurse Tiffany Busby said. She works at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center. It’s one of several hospitals within the Hackensack Meridian Health system.

The Health Professionals and Allied Employees union has reported that dozens of its members at the Jersey Shore, Ocean and Palisades Medical Centers have contracted the coronavirus.

“We’re now well into a second surge of COVID-19 and already we are hearing reports of outbreaks among hospital workers. This is so alarming,” HPAE union president Debbie White said.

The union has called on the state to require hospitals to report how many of their workers are sick with COVID-19.

“There is no mandate from our state government, no law that would force hospitals to keep track of sick hospital workers,” White said.

Gov. Phil Murphy expressed support on Friday for hospital employee COVID-19 reporting. It would be similar to schools and long-term care facilities.

“We want to see transparency, and so I want those to be on our dashboards and I want the health care providers, the hospital systems to be very clear and upfront about what’s going on in their hospitals,” Murphy said.

The New Jersey State Senate passed a bill to require this, but lawmakers said it’s stalled in the Assembly.

“I don’t understand why this set of statistics that should be so important to us, that is, how many COVID patients do we have among our health care workers in our hospitals,” Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said.

Hackensack Meridian Health released a statement late Monday. The healthcare provider said, “We stand with the New Jersey Hospital Association in support of efforts to provide information on hospital workers impacted by COVID-19. The safety of team members and our patients is our top priority.’’

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