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Healthcare Heroes Act Aims To Benefit Wisconsin Health Care Workers

Chuck Quirmbach
A sign outside of Aurora Sinai Medical Center near downtown Milwaukee shows support for health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin now tops 28,000, with 315 new cases reported Monday. The number of COVID deaths in the state remained at 777.

There’s a renewed effort during the pandemic to get more financial help to health care workers in Wisconsin.

>>WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
A COVID-19 testing site near downtown Milwaukee that’s staffed by health care workers from Advocate Aurora Health.

Several Democratic state lawmakers have introduced what they call the Healthcare Heroes Act. The bill would give health care workers hazard pay, fully paid medical leave, and state-funded COVID-19 testing and treatment for those who are uninsured. Madison hospital nurse Victoria Gutierrez says she worries at work about getting the coronavirus from a patient, and the concern continues after her shift is over.

"It's when I get into my car after my job and I'm driving home. The weight of my shift washes over me. And, I'm constantly worried about exposure to COVID-19 and if I'm bringing it home to my family,” Gutierrez said on a webcast organized by the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, and SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin.

Gutierrez says all frontline health care workers deserve to know they can support their family if they get COVID-19. 

Credit Chuck Quirmbach
Wisconsin Air National Guard jets fly over the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center May 12 to honor health care workers and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Healthcare Heroes Act would also cover hospital support staff, like Madison operating room custodian Michael Elvord. He says the additional work he's put in has kept him from seeing his family. 

"It has taken its toll on us mentally and emotionally. I know I'm very close to my son. When he comes home from college, we spend tons of time together in the summer. [This year] I've only seen my son four times,” Elvord said.

Elvord is Black. He says with many health care workers and COVID-19 patients Black or Latino, the proposed legislation helps show Black lives matter. 

But getting a bill passed in Madison yet this year would mean Republican leaders would have to agree to bring the Legislature into session. GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald did not respond to WUWM’s request for comment.

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