KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – KCTV5 News has learned that employees with Truman Medical Center have tested positive for COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, the union that represents many of those employees are making demands of Missouri’s governor.
Right now, the hospital is only saying “some” of their 8,000 employees have tested positive. It’s believed that the employees contracted the virus in the community, not at work.
They are now quarantined at home.
Health care workers with TMC, and at other hospitals and home health agencies, feel they’re at risk and want more done to protect themselves.
Ebony Smith is a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the TMC Lakewood location.
“Everybody is in a panic,” she said. “Everybody is scared. Nobody knows who’s been contacted, who’s been around who.”
She’s a single mother of four who is struggling to find childcare while school is out, but she’s needed for her 12-hour shifts at the hospital.
“What do I do?” she said. “How do I handle the situation? You know, I need my job. I have things to pay. So, when I called my job to ask them, ‘Do they have anything implemented?’ and for me to get no response… It was like devastating. Because, what do I do?”
Smith is one of thousands of workers represented by the Service Employees International Union. They represent support staff from dieticians to laundry workers at Research Medical Center as well as Truman Medical Centers.
“They are sorely underpaid even before this crisis came about,” said Lenny Jones, SEIU health care State Director/Vice President. “They are not provided the same medical equipment, in many cases, that doctors and nurses are provided and yet they come in to contact with the same residents and, of course, they come home and have interactions with friends and family.”
Jones sent a letter to Governor Mike Parson on Thursday demanding employer-paid health care and free COVID-19 testing, sick leave, hazard pay, childcare assistance, adequate personal protective equipment, unemployment insurance for reduced hours, and a statewide eviction freeze.
He’s also asking that the state declare a stay at home order like the one that is already in place in Kansas City.
“Right now, we are in a period of community spread,” he said. “That is very, very clear.”
Parson said, "I’ve got to evaluate that -- whether I shut down the entire state with that order or not. But, I think it’s a matter with all the red tape that we go through. It’s a matter of staying at home if you don’t have to."
It takes more than just doctors and nurses to support a health care facility.
“We have members who are ill, members who have requested testing and haven’t been able to get tested yet because of a lack of supplies,” Jones said. “A lot of fear out there.”
The governor has been holding daily tele-briefings where reporters can email in questions. KCTV5's Leslie Aguilar asked about all the health care union's demands, but only got an answer about COVID-19 testing.
"I would be willing to change that if it was possible to do, but I know every day there’s a shortage of test kits and we have to allocate which ones are a priority to our state," he said.
The union said they’re also advocating for individual health care employers to make the changes they’re asking for. However, the union wants the governor’s support in doing so.
TMC said they are currently working on a plan for childcare help for employees and they already have financial counselors in place to help employees navigate bills during this crisis.