While much of today’s headlines have concentrated on Ohio prison hotspots, there is another story of heroes on the front lines of this pandemic that hasn’t been told. OCSEA members in Ohio’s Developmental Centers, Veteran’s Homes and Behavioral Health Centers started early on to protect their clients, individuals and residences, and their hard work has paid off, big time.
Because of their quick and professional action, Ohio’s state congregate settings have seen relatively few incidences of infection, and only in one Developmental Center was there a serious outbreak.
That’s not the case in private long-term care and nursing homes in other parts of the country, where facilities are overrun with positive COVID cases. Tragically, in Ohio, 9 percent of cases overall are in long-term care facilities and nursing homes, and for the most, those are in the private sector.
OCSEA MH/DD/OVS Assembly President Jeanna Campolo said that the success of the state facilities is due to the professional, union employees on the front lines. “Very early on we made sure to protect residents. That was the most important thing. We slowed their movement early and changed programming. And being permanent, full-time union employees, we helped lessen the foot print that way,” she said. “The private sector has more employee turn-over and that doesn't help in situations like these.”
Campolo says having a unionized workforce has made all the difference. “The state long-term care facilities have always been the cream of the crop in large part due to having a unionized workforce of long-term, dedicated employees,” she said. “And that has made a significant difference in this outbreak,” she explained. “These residents are our family members and we are protecting them as such,” she said.
“We are following the guidelines of the Director of Health and the Governor,” said Assembly Vice President Jason Underhill who also works at Chapter 560 Appalachian Behavioral Health in Athens. “Because of the nature of our work—health care—we’re serious about this pandemic anyway. Everybody’s been wearing masks and no one has a problem with it. We did it before the recommendations even came out. We are taking this very seriously,” he said. “And I have to give credit where credit is due,” said Underhill. “Management has done a good job of putting the infrastructure in place for when we have a case. We set aside rooms and units to do these things,” he added.
“But we can't forget that our members are being forced to come to work to a job that potentially will get them sick. And even then, they are professionals,” said Underhill. “We just want management to live up to the contract. We are doing our part. We want management to do their part and abide by the emergency pay in the contract,” said Underhill. “Our people still show up to work and do their job professionally and effectively.”