By Joe Gravellese
In recent weeks, we’ve all gone out of our way to show our appreciation for nurses – and rightfully so. From a military flyover, to tributes on the field at Fenway Park, to Facebook posts from public figures honoring National Nurses Day, we’ve tried our best to say ‘thank you’ to healthcare providers on the front lines.
It is fitting and proper that we offer these tokens of gratitude. But it’s even more important for elected officials – and those wishing to become elected officials – to step up and deliver for nurses through sound public policy. Actions speak louder than words, and our actions will remain important to nursing professionals long after the COVID-19 crisis is over.
The State Legislature needs to follow up our public gratitude to nurses by thanking them in the form of legislation guaranteeing safe, fair working conditions. As a candidate for State Representative, I support several steps that would support these brave public servants in both the short- and the long-term.
First and foremost, we need to ensure that nurses have the PPE and workplace protections they deserve, including emergency paid sick time during the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis. I’ve joined Raise Up Massachusetts and local community activists in calling for emergency sick time for essential workers, and I hope the Legislature acts on this immediately, especially now that they are holding remote formal sessions.
As the Commonwealth moves toward a phased “reopening” of economic activity, the voices of labor must be at the table in crafting how that looks – particularly the Massachusetts Nurses Association and other groups representing frontline workers. Ultimately, if we fail to take steps to reduce the rate of infection in Massachusetts that will come with a reopening, it’s nurses and other medical professionals who will be most burdened by another surge in visits to the ICU. We must protect our frontline workers by making sure our emergence from stay-home advisories is done carefully and thoughtfully.
In the long term, after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, we can’t forget our nurses, and must continue to stand up for them. The Legislature is considering several bills that would help support nursing professionals that I commit to fighting for if elected.
One bill currently pending, the Workforce Development and Patient Safety Act, would create a series of independent studies to analyze the current nursing workforce and make recommendations on important workplace safety issues – including safe patient limits, workplace staffing, and steps to address violence and injuries on the job.
Another bill to support nurses and public health is the Hospital Profit Transparency and Fairness Act. This bill would ensure that hospital groups that receive taxpayer dollars are transparent in how they spend their money – including how much is spent on things like executive pay and marketing, as opposed to patient safety and support for frontline workers. It would also create a mechanism for the state to claw back excessive profits and executive pay.
I also support a bill filed by Rep. LaNatra of Kingston that supports school nurses. Revere’s school nurses have truly stepped up during the COVID-19 crisis, participating in the city’s contract tracing program and providing support and care to those who are isolated due to the virus. Even in normal times, school nurses are vital to community public health and safety. Given that school nurses often start their careers in other healthcare settings, Rep. LaNatra’s bill would allow school nurses to credit up to three years of private sector nursing toward their service time to the Commonwealth.
Through taking these actions, Massachusetts can show that our gratitude to nursing professionals extends beyond just saying nice words. Nursing professionals in Revere, Chelsea and Saugus deserves representation that will fight for them long after this crisis is over, and I am committed to delivering that representation if elected this fall.
Joe Gravellese is a candidate in the September 1 Democratic primary for State Representative in the 16th Suffolk District (Revere, Chelsea, Saugus). Voters can learn more about the campaign at www.joegrav.com.