Cleveland nursing home workers claim poor PPE levels, working conditions putting them at risk

Posted at 5:14 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 18:46:03-05

CLEVELAND — Frontline workers at a Cityview Nursing and Rehabilitation are demanding change and more personal protective equipment while they work to keep Ohio’s most vulnerable population safe.

They said their working conditions are unsafe and putting them and their residents at risk.

“We're at risk. Every day, we're at risk when we come in,” Chaundra Kidd, a nursing assistant at Cityview Nursing and Rehabilitation, said. “I come in afraid. I leave out afraid.”

The last several months have been a nightmare for Kidd.

“I work in a facility that is not even properly sterilizing the building to make sure it's safe for us to come in and work,” Kidd said.

Kidd is a nursing assistant at Cityview and she said while she and her colleagues put their lives on the line for their residents each and every day, they’re not getting the support they need from management.

“We have lost a lot of residents here over just a couple of weeks. And it's heartbreaking,” Kidd said. “I come into work every day having to ask for PPE because it's not left out for us. And the masks that you do leave out for us. The straps are breaking. They're not fitting well.”

Kidd and other workers repped by SEIU District 1199 demonstrated outside Cityview Wednesday, demanding more PPE and better working conditions - just as they did back in April.

SEIU 1199 administrative organizer Michelle Pirigyi says things have gotten even worse since then.

“They're offering them PPE but they're offering them the KN95 masks, those are disposable masks and sometimes they're being forced to wear them for a week straight or longer, they're supposed to be disposed of regularly,” Pirigyi said.

And it's not just at Cityview. A few weeks ago, our 5 On Your Side investigators reported that long-term care facilities across the state and nationwide are facing critical PPE shortages.

“They're putting their lives in danger every day coming in here,” Pirigyi said. “We would like to see them be treated with respect and dignity, giving them more recognition than just a “heroes work here” sign flying in front of the building.”

The group put emphasis on that with a banner honoring the 85 workers and residents they say have contracted COVID-19 across the five Certus Healthcare-owned nursing homes they represent, including Cityview.

News 5 was able to confirm that the number is actually much higher, with dozens more reported on the Ohio Department of Health's website.

Kidd made a plea to lawmakers, hoping she’s not next.

“I need for our government, you want to come in and make these laws mandating that we have to wear these masks, we have to do this, we have to do that - then get on these employers and these owners and make them do what they need to do for us to keep these facilities going,” Kidd said.

News 5 reached out to Certus Healthcare, which owns and operates Cityview, for a statement regarding SEIU 1199’s claims. A spokesperson responded:

COVID-19 has hit all nursing homes, inflicting significant suffering across the state. The SEIU’s accusations against Cityview are incorrect, unnecessarily spreading misinformation that impacts the most vulnerable. Cityview has invested thousands of dollars in PPE for its staff, and adheres to CDC, ODH, CMS guidelines for life expectancy of PPE.

SEIU is currently negotiating labor contracts with facilities related to Cityview and, regrettably, believes that exploiting the current crisis is a legitimate bargaining tool.
Eric Hutchins, Vice President of Operations

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

RELATED STORY: Cleveland nursing home workers demand more PPE from federal government

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