Should health workers get hazard pay during COVID-19 pandemic?

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Should those on the frontlines of COVID-19 get hazard pay?

It’s a measure federal lawmakers are considering and Indiana could follow.

Healthcare workers signed up to help sick people. They say knew they would expose themselves to infectious diseases. However, some say this particular situation was not in the job description.

“I didn’t sign up for this,” said an Indianapolis ICU nurse.

Before COVID-19, personal protective equipment was abundant. Reusing masks was unheard of.

“They were single use so, it just makes you question,” said the nurse. “We don’t know much about this virus, are we being guinea pigs? I don’t know!”

This health care worker is dealing with infected COVID-19 patients for 12-hour periods using the same PPE she used on another shift.

“I don’t think that the general public really understands what it looks like inside the walls of those hospitals, so I think all of us are scared. I think all of us are hoping this is going to end soon,” said the worker.

She hopes it ends without her worst fears coming true.

“We are all making a sacrifice not only for ourselves but you know we are exposing ourselves, and bringing this home to our families and that is terrifying,” she said.

She believes medical professionals deserve hazard pay from both the state and federal government during this pandemic.

“It’s not a greed thing,” she explained.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said Wednesday that he isn’t taking anything off the table when it comes to hazard pay but he’s waiting to use state money for it.

“More to follow, we are tracking very closely what’s being discussed in Washington D.C.,” said Holcomb.

The Indiana State Medical Association sent a statement in support of hazardous duty pay.

“While many questions remain about what qualifies a physician for COVID-19 hazardous duty pay, and how it would be implemented, the ISMA supports the idea in principal for physicians working on the front lines of this public health emergency.” said ISMA Executive Vice President Julie Reed. “The shortage of personal protective equipment for physicians is making the treatment of COVID-19 patients that much more dangerous and difficult to prevent their own infection. We look forward to the continued discussions about hazard pay for our health care heroes who are putting themselves and their families at tremendous risk.”

The Indiana Hospital Association also supports hazard pay.

“There’s just so much about the current public health emergency that is unprecedented,” said IHA President Brian Tabor. “I think we do need to think outside the box in ways that we can support our healthcare workers.”

As for the ICU nurse, she will continue going to work whether she gets paid extra or not. Risking her life and the lives of her loved ones is her new normal.

“This is not the type of nursing that I was doing three months ago,” she said.

Many essential companies are offering hazard pay voluntarily during this time without government assistance.

Governor Holcomb says he will have more information about this in the coming days or weeks.

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