Healthcare workers at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach were joined by Vice Mayor Rex Richardson to address accusations of unequal treatment and lack of protections for security officers at Dignity Health – St. Mary Hospital the morning of Thursday, May 13th. The protest came a day after Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers West (SEIU-UHW) filed a formal hazard complaint with Cal/OSHA related to the hospital’s handling of the novel coronavirus.
“We put our lives on the line protecting patients and the other employees who work here, but who is protecting us? Dignity isn’t taking our safety seriously,” said Deonne Youngblood, a security officer at Dignity Health. “A security guard at one facility tried to help a patient who broke out of a unit and suffered a beating so terrifying, his family took out a life insurance policy for him. We don’t have enough security staff when violent situations arise, we face extreme exposure to COVID-19 infection, and our safety concerns are ignored.”
The complaint states that at Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, management had failed to report coronavirus cases to security guards with potential exposure prior to December 2020, and that there are numerous present COVID-19-specific hazards generated by both past and ongoing practices that violate multiple elements of Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases Standard, putting the health and safety of security personnel at risk. The complaint notes that as a result, an estimated 12 out of a total of 24 security guards contracted COVID-19 between the months of December 2020 to February 2021 at Dignity Health – St Mary Center in Long Beach.
According to the Cal/OSHA complaint, the core practices that have and continue to put security officers at risk are:
- An insufficient COVID-19 exposure notification system
- N95 masks not being provided to security officers
- Routine failures to screen people entering the hospital
- Failure to train security officers on COVID-19 protocols
The security officers at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach and Dignity Health facilities across California want to be recognized as members of SEIU-UHW in order to win higher safety standards, stronger protections against COVID-19, more equitable treatment from management, and job security protections.