opinion Newport Rhode Island

Since COVID-19 became a household word, every aspect of our lives as Rhode Islanders has changed. We lost loved ones and friends, our businesses have suffered, we skipped family gatherings, and we’ve missed milestones like graduations and weddings. Through it all, one thing has not changed – the dedication and hard work of our frontline health care workers.
While much has been written about the stress that the pandemic has caused in the medical and care fields, we’ve done little to reward our selfless health care personnel’s hard work or to encourage them to remain with their jobs.  Furthermore, many of these caregivers are women who were tasked with simultaneously caring for their patients and their families — adapting to household challenges like distance learning, closures of childcare programs and keeping their loved ones warm, safe, and fed amid shortages of all kinds.  They are exhausted.   
The steadfast commitment of our health care workers to their professions saved lives, families, and businesses. We should demonstrate our gratitude and invest in their careers.
With the support of caregivers across the state, we are advocating for the passage of the Health Care Workforce Stabilization Program (2022-H 8076) which would provide a one-time retention payment of $2,500 to all health care workers who worked during the height of the pandemic.
This bill would also provide funding to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on hospital finances.
As we emerge from the pandemic and face the future of health care in Rhode Island, we need our hospitals to be ready to recognize and address the challenges ahead, which includes the exodus of health care staff.  To push back against this troubling, although understandable, trend, it is only fitting that we support our dedicated and burnt out health care workers as they have cared for us during the pandemic.  In order to rebuild our health care system with the appropriate and needed staffing levels, this bill will provide a solution to a problem that threatens us all.
We hope you will join us in supporting this legislation and invite you to share your support by sending an e-mail to your local Representative. Together, we can support our health care workers which in turn will leave Rhode Island’s health care system in a far better place for all of the state’s residents.

Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski, a Democrat, represents District 17 in Cranston.  Patrick J. Quinn is the Executive Director of SEIU 1199.