Last week, nursing homes across the state closed their doors to guests and loved ones of residents as they work to prevent any exposure of our most vulnerable residents to the virus. At the same time, because of the emergency orders by the state, workers who are in the process of completing their Nursing Assistant Certifications have been unable to complete their programs because of the lack of testing sites, TB tests and the other normal requirements to work in long term care. This past weekend, our Union joined with the employer and resident advocacy organizations Care Providers of Minnesota and LeadingAge Minnesota to ask Governor Walz for a temporary suspension of the normal requirements in order to avoid a staffing crisis in nursing homes. We also requested an ability for retired and other out-of-work health care workers to immediately work in nursing homes, as many clinic and other healthcare workers are seeing hours reduced.
In hospitals and clinics, dental offices and rehab facilities, we saw patient volumes drop abruptly. The board of dentistry recommended closures and the state ordered a halt to all elective surgeries. In response to this development, and because we know that we can soon expect a surge of COVID-19 cases, we have asked our employers and the Minnesota Hospital Association to ensure that all workers experiencing low need, furlough or lay-off during this time be provide a minimum of 10 days administrative leave pay.
I want to take a moment to recognize Allina Health for being the first employer to commit that any low needs for the next pay period (through April 5th) will be with full pay and no affected workers will be required to pay themselves from their paid time off accounts. In addition, Cuyuna Regional Medical Center (CRMC) has announced that they will pay the full cost of healthcare and dental premiums during the month of April for all workers who are enrolled in the employer’s benefit plans.
While other employers have announced programs to allow workers to use their paid time off during this window of time or to borrow against future time off accruals, our Union will be fighting for employers to do the right thing by their workers. We oppose any proposal that would cause workers to go into debt to their employer for sick leave during a public health emergency and we are calling on every employer to do right by our families as we work together to fight the spread of COVID-19.