DC nurses demand hazard pay during pandemic

As reopening continues, the risk from the coronavirus has not diminished for D.C. nurses in close contact with patients on a daily basis. And those on the front lines want compensation for the danger they face.

“It’s just a scary situation,” said Debra Washington, 64, a nurse at United Medical Center in Southeast D.C. She is among those calling for hazard pay for nurses.

She said she was one of 150 nurses at her hospital who signed a petition calling for additional money for responding during the pandemic, but she said hospital administrators turned them down.

“We still think that we deserve, and we would like to get hazard pay for the work that we’re doing,” Washington said.

While protective gear is more available, Washington said there is still significant risk to nurses who work with patients. Some of these patients are known to have tested positive for the coronavirus, and there are patients whose positivity statuses are unknown, Washington said.

“You’re still putting yourself into a hazardous situation,” she said.

Washington is a member of the District of Columbia Nurses Association, or DCNA, which said that nurses across D.C. have been turned down for hazard pay.

In an email, United Medical Center spokesperson Toya Carmichael said the hospital appreciates the petition from the DCNA but said that to date, no medical facility in the District is offering hazard pay.

“UMC is evaluating the possibilities on how to recognize and support our team during these times,” Carmichael said.

The DCNA said Howard University, Children’s National, St. Elizabeths Hospital and Washington Hospital Center have also turned down requests from nurses for hazard pay.

WTOP has also reached out to those hospitals for comment.

“It is disturbing that hospital administrators refuse to engage DCNA over providing additional pay for nurses when they describe them as heroes and continue to depend on them as the mainstay in fighting this pandemic,” said Edward J. Smith, DCNA executive director, in a statement.

Some people on the front lines in the region have seen hazard pay added to their paychecks during the pandemic. D.C. government workers who must physically report to work are among them.

Washington hopes those who operate D.C.’s hospitals will eventually follow suit.

“It would be nice to have some, not say it’s a reward, but some type of recognition for the job that we’re doing.”

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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