Sunday, September 12, 2004

Health Care Worker Training Success (Even Respirator Fit Testing!)

Here's a nice story in the NY Daily News about a health and safety program for hospital workers jointly administered by the Service Employees Inernational Union (SEIU), Local 1199, and the Long Island College Hospital. Note the paragraph about respirator fit testing, considering the recent Congressional action calling on OSHA not to enforce fit testing for health care workers.

As a personal care assistant for 16 years at Long Island College Hospital, Gloria Walters thought she knew how to protect herself from disease and infection.

But after receiving eight hours of haz-mat training, the 49-year-old from Flatbush said she will wear a surgical mask until doctors identify what disease a coughing patient has, even if he or she is not in isolation.

Margaret Fable, who works in the billing department, said that not too long ago she would have simply cleaned up a spill if she saw one on the floor. Now, the 46-year-old Cobble Hill native said she will call the proper department to clean it up, because it could potentially be a chemical.

Since July, Long Island College Hospital has sent staff from housekeepers to doctors to learn how to deal with hazardous materials. They also learn safety procedures, such as how to remove a contaminated glove with one finger without infecting themselves or the surrounding area.

Most importantly, participants get properly fitted for and learn how to use N95 masks, disposable respirators that filter out 95% of contaminants sized 0.3 microns or larger.

To date, 331 people have graduated from the program.

Send this to Congressman Wicker.