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Nursing home worker claim they were fired over demands for more PPE

Workers at two Chicago-area facilities claim they were fired or suspended for demanding more protective gear, raising safety concerns, union official says.

Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said nursing home workers were fired or suspended after raising safety concerns in three suburban Chicago facilities.
Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said nursing home workers were fired or suspended after raising safety concerns in three suburban Chicago facilities.
Sun-Times file

Two nursing home workers accused two Chicago-area facilities Tuesday afternoon for wrongfully firing or suspending them after they raised safety issues.

Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, said these were just just an example of many instances during the COVID-19 pandemic where union members’ concerns were being disregarded by nursing home owners.

Kelley said workers at Bridgeview Health Care Center and Alden Lakeland brought their concerns to management but were “disrespected, insulted and have in fact been fired” for raising issues with their employers.

“These employers seem to care more about maintaining their profits than the safety of those who live and work in their facility,” Kelley said.

SEIU Healthcare has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.

Tainika Somerville, a former Certified Nursing Assistant at Bridgeview Health Care Center, said she feared bringing the virus home to her eight kids because of her concerns over personal protective equipment.

“We don’t have the proper PPE here; we have asked over and over again if we can have the proper gear,” Somerville said. “I had to find out through social media that a resident that I took care of passed away from complications of COVID-19,” Somerville said.

Somerville said management at the facility never told her what happened to the resident nor recommended she be tested for the virus.

She and a group of other employees went to the nursing home’s administrator and asked for help. She now claims she was fired for doing so.

“It’s unfair for me to get fired, to get let go, for asking for things that’s rightfully ours,” Somerville said.

Martha Peck, an administrator for the nursing home, wouldn’t comment directly on Somerville’s dismissal.

“However, Bridgeview has not disciplined or terminated the employment of any person due to PPE use or COVID-19 concerns in the community,” Peck said.

Peck reiterated that the facility had an appropriate supply of PPE and was adhering to Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Janine Schoen, an administrator at Alden Lakeland, said their facility hasn’t had any positive COVID-19 cases and didn’t comment on any allegations from workers.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.