Union holds Wednesday rally at Salem VA Medical Center to raise awareness of employee safety concerns during COVID-19 crisis, hospital officials respond

Coronavirus

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: The Salem VA Medical Center has released an official statement regarding Wednesday morning’s protest:

Salem VA Medical Center’s PPE practices are keeping our employees safe during challenging times and numbers prove it. For instance, 0.27% of our employees have tested positive for COVID-19. By contrast, at the Henry Ford Health System, more than 700 employees have tested positive, which represents 2.1% of that system’s workforce.

And as of the morning of April 22, the Salem VAMC does not have any COVID19-positive inpatients.

CDC guidance states that “All U.S. healthcare facilities should begin using PPE contingency strategies now, ” and VA is currently adhering to CDC’s contingency capacity posture for PPE use.

All federal employees, including VA employees, accrue paid annual and sick leave. Per VA and OPM regulations, as well as CDC guidance, VA encourages to employees to use paid sick leave if they are ill, experiencing symptoms of any illness, or diagnosed with COVID-19.

Staff may also apply for advanced sick leave, annual leave or telework, if they are asymptomatic, have not tested positive and feel the need to self-quarantine. Additionally, weather and safety leave may be granted if an employee is asymptomatic, has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and cannot telework.

Our staff is doing an amazing job under pressure. They have an open line of communication with our leadership, and we encourage them to talk to us so we can continue to support them.”

Salem VA Medical Center Spokesperson

SALEM, Va. (WFXR) – American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) members of Local 1739 have a rally slated for Wednesday morning at the Salem VA Medical Center to raise concerns over unsafe working conditions.

The rally, set for 6:30 a.m., will adhere to social distancing recommendations and deliver a petition to VA Management wanting added protections for veterans and staff from COVID-19. These protections include giving employees PPE, allowing telework for anyone who can, giving weather and safety leave for those exposed, providing clear communication and training for all employees, as well as other concerns.

We are coming together today at the Salem VA to demand PPE, hazard pay and paid leave to those staff who have been exposed. It is a time that VA Secretary Wilkie provide us the resources we need to serve veterans and the general public facing the COVID-19 pandemic.”

James Martin, AFGE Local 1739 member

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