Healthcare Workers Decry California Opening the Door to Forcing COVID-Positive Caregivers Back to Work

Healthcare Workers Decry California Opening the Door to Forcing COVID-Positive Caregivers Back to Work


January 8, 2022

OAKLAND, Calif. –  Healthcare workers across California are expressing shock and anger at the January 8th guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health allowing acute care hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and skilled nursing facilities to bring healthcare workers back to work after they have tested positive for COVID-19 or been directly exposed without any testing or isolation periods.

Caregivers predict that compromising common sense safety requirements for testing and isolation will increase workplace outbreaks and put vulnerable patients at grave risk.

“For healthcare workers on the frontline it is very disappointing to see the State of California cave to employer pressure to bypass common sense safety measures.” said Gabe Montoya, an emergency room technician at Kaiser Medical Center in Downey. “No patient wants to be cared for by someone who has COVID-19 or was just exposed to it. There is testing available at our facilities and we should be able use that testing and test negative before returning to work if we are exposed or have tested positive. Caregivers need to be able to trust that the CDC and the State are putting the safety of patients and healthcare workers first.”

“Hospital workers cannot take much more,” adds Gisela Thomas, a respiratory therapist at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. “Rather than compromising workplace safety precautions, we need bolstering from state policy makers.  California healthcare workers need paid COVID sick leave to support us when we contract COVID-19 while caring for patients and recognition bonuses to keep people on the job in the face of massive staffing shortages”.

SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), the union representing 100,000 California Healthcare workers vowed to protest the new guidance.  The guidance is not binding on hospital employers who are allowed to maintain stricter precautions such as a requirement for a negative test before a COVID-19 positive or exposed healthcare worker returns to work.

“Our union will fight for safe working conditions for hospital workers who have continuously put their lives on the line during this pandemic,” says Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW.   “We intend to expose any hospital employer who knowingly puts patients at risk by forcing COVID positive caregivers back to work.”

SEIU-UHW members include frontline workers such as respiratory care practitioners, dietary, environmental services, and nursing staff who live and work throughout California from the Bay Area to Sacramento and Los Angeles to the Central Valley.

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SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is a healthcare justice union of more than 100,000 healthcare workers, patients, and healthcare activists united to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality care for all Californians, provided by valued and respected healthcare workers.