SEIU Healthcare authorizes May 8 strike at nursing homes
SEIU Healthcare has set a May 8 strike day for workers at 40 Illinois nursing homes, the union announced Monday evening.
The current contract between the union and the Illinois Association of Health Care Facilities, an organization of nursing home and long-term care facility owners, is set to expire at the end of April.
The union said in a statement that more needs to be done to protect workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The planned strike comes as new data released over the weekend by the Illinois Department of Public Health show at least 625 nursing homes deaths connected to COVID-19, more than double the 286 deaths reported the week before. Roughly one-third of all Illinois deaths from the virus have been tied to long-term care facilities.
At least 4,298 residents or workers have tested positive for the virus at 278 facilities in 24 counties, including 157 facilities in Cook County.
Shaba Andrich, vice president of nursing homes at SEIU Healthcare, told Health News Illinois that the numbers underscore what workers have said from the start of the pandemic, that front-line workers need adequate personal protective equipment.
Additionally, facilities need to have in place effective infection control, such as adequate safety protocols, staffing and coronavirus-related paid time off.
“Without these, many more residents and workers will fall sick, and some will die,” Andrich said. “The failure of the nursing home industry to move decisively to put such measures in place is a horrible shame.”
Jonathan Aaron, CEO of Citadel Healthcare, said on behalf of the Health Care Council of Illinois that the new data is missing some context, such as the number of residents that have recovered fully, how many are currently isolated at the facility or being treated in a hospital. He also said a lack of reporting uniformity across the state, which includes some facilities reporting suspected cases as well as confirmed cases, has caused some confusion.
Aaron said the three main nursing home associations remain committed to working with state officials on a comprehensive approach to protecting nursing home residents and staff.
“Nursing homes and long-term care facilities must work in close partnership and coordination with the governor and the Illinois Department of Public Health to protect our residents and staff and defeat this virus,” he said.
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