MILWAUKEE – Democratic state lawmakers on Wednesday, Jan. 12 introduced the “Healthcare Heroes Act,” which would provide more benefits to frontline health care workers.
Wisconsin set a new record for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 complications on Wednesday – 2,278, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, one more than the previous record set in November 2020.
Wednesday night, some of the workers who have been caring for those patients pleaded their case, asking for protection in the face of the pandemic.
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The start of a shift inside a hospital COVID-19 unit includes N95 masks and face shields, rubber gloves and isolation gowns – and, critically, the doctors, nurses and other specialists who are fighting the pandemic firsthand.
“Every time we set foot inside the hospital, every time we go into a patient room, we are putting ourselves at risk,” said Louise Nordstrom, a nurse at Meriter Hospital in Madison.
That risk is what some Democratic lawmakers are trying to recognize. State Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) introduced a bill Wednesday to provide more benefits to frontline health care workers, calling it the “Healthcare Heroes Act.”
“Health care workers are heroes, and we should provide the support and the resources they need to continue their heroic work,” Vining said.
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First introduced in June 2020, when the legislature was not in session, the bill would provide hazard pay, paid medical leave, state-funded COVID-19 testing and treatment for uninsured workers, and more.
State Rep. Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit) said the bill would also accept Medicaid expansion, which would pay for those benefits.
“With frontline health care workers tired, stressed, sick but still doing everything they can for us, the best time to pass this bill was in 2020. But the second-best time is right now,” said Spreitzer.
Hoping to protect those who protect others from the virus that does not appear to be going away anytime soon.
“We can’t code our patient in the hospital and code our profession at the same time. It’s not something that we’re capable of doing,” said Nordstorm.
Vining said they hope for support from Republican colleagues. The two sides remain divided on Medicaid expansion.
Gov. Tony Evers called a special session last year to expand the program and accept $1 billion in federal funds. Both chambers, led by Republicans, gaveled in and then out almost immediately.