Are Healthcare Unions Helpful?

July 08, 2020

The stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred some healthcare workers to protest their working conditions, with the backing of their unions.

About 70 residents at a Brooklyn hospital took a 20-minute "unity break" in late May to protest conditions at the hospital ― such as inadequate personal protective equipment ― during the spring surge of COVID-19 cases in New York City. As part of an effort to draw attention to other safety concerns, nurses at a hospital in Minnesota protested a policy that prevented employees from wearing hospital-issued scrubs.

And although staffing agencies advertised contracts that well compensated nurses and respiratory therapists in New York City hospitals during the spring surge, Alok S. Patel, MD, points out that hospitals in that city asked physicians to volunteer their services without pay.

"We need to remind the higher-ups that physicians aren't martyrs or soldiers," Patel writes. "I'm personally not sure if this should come in the form of more advocacy, unionization, or contracts with staffing agencies, but we have to take action. Otherwise, I fear that there will always be the option for hospitals to take us for granted."


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