Editor’s Note: The SEIU has released the following statement to reporters after a meeting held Tuesday with administration of Brighton Rehabilitation And Wellness Center in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility.
The nursing home has refused to answer questions from the media, or release numbers of how many patients in the nursing home have contracted COVID-19 or died with the virus. The statement includes no commitment to provide transparency to the public about what is happening inside of the 589 bed facility. As in the prior statement, SEIU President Matthew Yarnell used the opportunity to make political remarks about the Trump administration. We are publishing the press release in full as written.
Union workers at Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center in Beaver County have reached an agreement on demands presented to their employer after a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases in the home. Workers and administrators of the nursing home met again Tuesday to discuss moving forward.
“It’s scary to go to work and not know if you’re going to get a life-threatening illness or pass along the virus to one of your residents,” said Shania Taylor, a Certified Nursing Assistant who tested positive for COVID-19 last week. “We need to keep ourselves, our residents, and our families safe. That includes PPE, along with transparency and communication from management. We have to fight this together.”
Under the agreement, a team of caregivers will hold daily meetings with a designated point person at Brighton to discuss concerns and develop solutions in a situation that will change day-by-day.
“This crisis has highlighted how vulnerable our healthcare system is and that caregivers’ input and voice is absolutely essential if we want to provide high-quality care in this country,” said Matthew Yarnell, President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the largest union of healthcare workers in the state. “Because the virus is so highly contagious it will only get worse before it gets better. That’s why we have been committed to making sure caregivers on the frontlines are heard, protected, and in daily communication with management to cut through rumors and triage in this critical moment.”
In Tuesday’s meeting, Brighton management clarified that union members and residents will still continue to be tested for COVID-19. Their approach of “presumed positive” for residents and staff is a heightened safety measure meant to ensure all precautions are being taken no matter where workers are in the building.
As part of that approach, all workers are being fitted for N95 masks and frontline workers will receive hazard pay. Additionally, some workers who are not currently in direct-care roles will be reassigned to ensure adequate staffing, which was of concern after some non-union agency workers left their jobs at Brighton shortly after the virus began to spread.
“I feel really good about this agreement and being able to work with management to make sure we are all safe and can stem the spread,” said Shelby Dille, who has been a CNA for over 40 years and worked at Brighton for the past 14 years. “Having this pandemic sweep through our building and bad things being said about Brighton has hurt us deeply. We have so many loving people here. The residents aren’t just people we take care of, they are family. We will keep doing everything we can to keep them safe and ease their fears.”
Fighting to ensure all frontline workers are protected with proper PPE is a challenge given the national shortage. SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania is actively working to find and connect current supplies to caregivers, and ensure that our federal government steps up to take care of those fighting the pandemic.
“We should not have gotten to this point,” said Yarnell. “The Trump administration’s slow response and lack of action have made this crisis worse. Lack of PPE is a clear example of why the president must enact the Defense Production Act of 1950 to repurpose manufacturing in the US to produce N95 masks, gowns, gloves, other PPE, and ventilators.”
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania represents approximately 300 healthcare workers at the home.