News & Events
Boston City Council to Hold Virtual Hearing on May 27th Regarding the Occupational Presumption of COVID-19 Exposure for Essential Frontline Workers
In the wake of the failure on all levels to provide essential workers with appropriate PPE, the hearing will address the need for employers and the state to take responsibility for assuming that all workers tested positive for COVID-19 are presumed to have been exposed at work
When: Wednesday, May 27 at 10 a.m.
Where: The hearing can be viewed via live stream at www.boston.gov/city-council-tv
Who: The City Council will hear from a panel of union leaders representing frontline
workers, including St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center ED Nurse and MNA Board Member Ellen MacInnis, RN, who will testify how the lack of protection has left them vulnerable to exposure, and employers reprehensible refusal to take responsibility for their failure to protect them.
BOSTON, MA – As the city and state continue to confront the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and thousands of essential workers, including police, fire, grocery store and postal workers, nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers continue to place their lives and their families lives on the line every day without being provided with consistent, proper protective equipment, the Boston City Council will hold a hearing on May 27 to hear from frontline workers about these conditions, and specifically, to discuss the need for all workers who test positive for the virus to be presumed to have contracted the potentially deadly pathogen at work.
To date several thousand workers have contracted the virus, and several have died, yet employers throughout the Commonwealth refuse to acknowledge and take responsibility for their sacrifice by allowing workers to make the logical claim that they contracted the virus on the job, thus complicating their ability to access workers’ compensation and other benefits.
Ellen MacInnis, RN, an emergency department nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, will testify at the hearing on behalf of all nurses and health care workers in Boston and beyond, stating
“We entered this pandemic unprepared. People can debate the hows and whys of that, but what is certain is that we did not have the proper protective equipment, the proper isolation and segregation of patient populations nor adequate testing and tracing. In some cases, hospitals actively lobbied for a lowering of the CDC infectious disease standards, including those governing proper Personal Protective Equipment or PPE.
“This left frontline workers vulnerable. Nurses were not supplied with the appropriate N95 masks, and when we did have access to them we were told to use them across multiple shifts and multiple days. These are disposable masks that were designed for single use. We did not have enough gowns or hair coverings or shoe coverings. Hospitals delayed implementing the directive that all employees in the hospital should wear masks and were slow to segregate patients who were confirmed or suspected COVID cases.”
“Meanwhile, we started to hear from hospitals that if workers tested positive they likely acquired it somewhere else. Somewhere in the community. This is absurd and it is insulting. The hospitals who, though their actions or inactions, put their workers at risk, are now trying to walk away from any responsibility.”
The hearing was scheduled based on an order issued by Boston City Councilor Liz Breadon and Councilor Ed Flynn. The hearing will be conducted by the Committee on Workforce Development chaired by Councilor Julia Mejia.
The order specifically references the fact that:
“More than 160 Boston hospital workers and more than 1,900 Massachusetts hospital workers have tested positive for COVID-19; and the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided by management and employers has put frontline essential workers at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus in their employment settings.”
The Councilors’ order concludes that “Occupational presumption would recognize that essential frontline workers who contract coronavirus are almost certain to have contracted the virus at work or through work-related settings.”
Earlier this month, on May 14, the entire City Council sent a letter to Governor Baker urging him to enact legislation that would presume any healthcare worker who contracts the coronavirus (COVID-19) be presumed to have acquired the virus at work or in the course of work-related activities. Our healthcare professionals are at the frontline of this pandemic serving the public, and it is important that they have occupational presumption if they contract COVID-19.”