By Carol Vaughn —
Members of Virginia Organizing and and others marched along the road near a Parksley nursing home Monday to protest what they say is unfair treatment of essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and to ask for regulations to better protect those workers.
The Virginia Department of Labor’s Safety and Health Codes Board will meet June 24 to consider adopting extensive temporary emergency regulations for workplaces to help prevent the spread of the virus and protect workers — including protections for workers who voice concerns about infection control to their employer, other employees, government agencies, or the media.
The group dubbed the event a Heroes March.
The location for the march was chosen because a nurse, Mary Morrow, who participated in the protest, recently was terminated from her job at Shore Health and Rehabilitation Center, according to organizers.
“We gather here today to represent essential workers, who were asked to go out, to be heroes, and to help take care of our country — and some of us are just thrown away for it,” Morrow said, adding, “We’re not protected. We need certain healthcare laws and things to make sure we are protected.”
Morrow, a nurse for 10 years, said she had worked at the Parksley facility for three months before she was “wrongfully terminated for trying to fight to keep our patients safe from a nurse that had come in from Heritage Hall.”
Heritage Hall, a long-term care facility in Nassawadox, reported an outbreak April 22 and has had 114 cases and 18 deaths, according to a Virginia Health Department database.
Morrow said she spoke with her supervisors about having the new hire tested for COVID-19 and having the person wait 14 days before starting work.
According to Morrow, the person later tested positive for the virus and died.
“They terminated me because I spoke out,” Morrow said.
A request for comment was not immediately answered by Saber, the company that manages the Parksley facility.
According to Virginia Health Department data, Shore Healthcare and Rehab Center in Parksley has an outbreak in progress; the Virginia Health Department was notified May 4.
The nursing home has reported 11 cases and 0 deaths.
The outbreak at Heritage Hall is listed as “pending closure,” which means 28 days have passed without a documented new case, but the outbreak has not yet been closed in the Virginia Outbreak Surveillance System.
The numbers reported for outbreaks include both residents and staff, according to the health department website.
The database can be viewed at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/health-professionals/virginia-long-term-care-task-force/
“I really want to see essential workers — heroes, nurses — have the rights that they should have in the workplace to keep them safe, to keep their jobs safe,” Morrow said.
After she lost her job, Morrow said she lost her financial security, almost lost her house, and became depressed.
“I’m not the only one dealing with this out here,” she said, adding, “I want to make sure that people aren’t treated like that and that we have some things in place that will protect us.”
A draft version of the proposed regulation can be viewed at: https://www.doli.virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/COVID-19-ETS-Emg-Reg-Infectious-Disease-Prevention.pdf