SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The California state legislature late Monday night passed the nation's first law requiring healthcare facilities, including hospitals, medical groups, skilled nursing facilities, and dialysis clinics, to maintain a 45-day supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) at pandemic levels to be prepared for future healthcare emergencies.
The law also sets the stage for the state of California to create a 90-day supply of PPE for healthcare and other essential workers.
"This legislation will make sure we will never be caught off-guard again when a pandemic or other health emergency hits our state," said Jessica Rodriguez, an emergency department technician at Kaiser Oakland. "Too many healthcare and other essential workers have gotten sick and needlessly died because we did not have the supplies of PPE we desperately needed to treat COVID-19 patients. Many lives will be saved because of this new law."
The bill was conceived and backed by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West and was sponsored by Sens. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino). In addition to the 45-day requirement for healthcare facilities, the legislation also creates a state PPE advisory committee to guide California on the creation of a state stockpile of PPE and procurement guidelines to work toward a 90-day pandemic level supply for all essential workers. Labor and industry will each have four seats on the 15-member advisory committee, with seven others appointed by the state.
The bill requires employers to provide unexpired PPE upon request to all healthcare workers, whether they are performing direct patient care or supporting patient care, such as environmental services workers (housekeeping), and lab, transport and dietary employees.
"No healthcare workers should have to go through what we did when the pandemic hit and we had to put our lives on the line without the masks, gowns and other equipment to protect us," said Vanessa Mondragon, a lab assistant II at Riverside Community Hospital. "Our employers were totally unprepared, the state was unable to back them up, and all of them were dependent on foreign suppliers, many of whom were fraudulent. This legislation cleans up what was a deadly mess for so many dedicated people."
Under the new law:
Hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, dialysis clinics and medical practices that are part of an integrated health system are required to build a 45-day surge-level PPE stockpile.
The PPE must be "new and not previously worn or used."
The stockpiles must be established by January 1, 2023.
Providers are subject to fines up to $25,000 for each violation for failing to maintain the stockpile and failing to provide an inventory of equipment to California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the United States, with 97,000 members. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.