State Offers New Protections for Health Care Workers
By Quinci LeGardye
California Black Media
California is expanding aid and protections to health care workers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues through two new laws and an executive order.
Late last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that orders new actions on health care in response to the pandemic.
The order allows public health officials working to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic to participate in the Secretary of State’s address-confidentiality program, known as the Safe at Home program.
The Safe at Home program provides substitute addresses for groups that need protection against harassment or violence, including sexual assault and domestic violence victims. Multiple public health officials have reported receiving death threats, including Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer and Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody.
“Our public health officers have all too often faced targeted harassment and stalking,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla. This “program can help provide more peace of mind to the public health officials who have been on the frontlines of California’s COVID-19 response.”
The order also authorizes the Department of Managed Health Care to gather data to assess the impacts of the pandemic on health care providers and health care service plans.
Gov. Newsom also recently signed two bills, AB 2537 and SB 275, that would increase the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.
Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) introduced AB 2537. The law requires hospitals to stockpile a three-month supply of PPE by April 2021.
“We are currently experiencing something we haven’t before, and healthcare workers are at the frontlines of it all. While dealing with this pandemic, the last thing our workers should be worried about is whether or not, they will be protected from exposure. We must protect those providing care so that they too can continue to do their work,” said Rodriguez.
SB 275 mandates the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to establish a 90-day PPE stockpile for health care and other essential workers within one year. It also requires major health care employers, such as hospitals, nursing homes and dialysis clinics, to build an additional 45-day stockpile of PPE by 2023 or later.
Under SB 275, essential workers will receive PPE from the CDPH stockpile include school workers, childcare providers, in-home support providers, and any workers who provide services directly supporting patient care. SB 275 was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union California.
“One of the hard-learned lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for a well-managed supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep California’s healthcare workforce and other essential workers safe. SB 275 creates a reliable supply of PPE to ensure healthcare workers, essential workers, and the public at large are protected during the next health emergency,” said SB 275 author Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).