As the United States heads into the holiday season and the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, frontline workers will be instrumental in saving lives and fighting the virus. Already, we have heard countless stories about nurses and doctors flying across the country to assist those in need.
But what happens when it’s the hospital workers who are in need?
In July, during NWC’s annual National Whistleblower Day celebration, we heard from Jhonna Porter, a charge nurse and Covid-19 whistleblower. Jhonna was suspended without pay after privately notifying her colleagues, out of concerns for their safety, that their hospital wing was being converted to care exclusively for Covid-19 patients. The hospital was using patient privacy laws to keep this information hidden from staff, potentially exposing them without informing them.
In addition to notifying nurses in her unit, Jhonna made a plea to her community for PPE donations to be given directly to nurses instead of to the hospital. Any donations that had been made to the hospital were not making it into the hands of staff. More troublesomely, Jhonna was forced to sneak masks into the hospital by disguising it as food in a Subway sandwich bag because the hospital refused to let Jhonna share the PPE she received with her colleagues.
After the hospital’s misuse of HIPAA to silence whistleblowers became public following a series of high-profile whistleblower stories published to the media, Jhonna was reinstated. But unlike Jhonna, however, most hospital workers who are in similar situations are never reinstated and continue to face retaliation. Between the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in the U.S. through August 9th, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received 1,744 COVID-19 related retaliation complaints by workers. Only 35 of these complaints were resolved in this time period – a mere 2%.
OSHA is the only means by which a hospital worker can report unsafe working conditions and retaliation, but this law is failing them. Frontline workers in the United States are currently forced to choose between losing their job or becoming sick from Covid-19.
That’s why the National Whistleblower Center is working every day to fight for stronger whistleblower protections and to educate whistleblowers, such as Jhonna, about how to safely report fraud. But we still have a long way to go, and we need your help. It’s going to take all of us to prevent waste, fraud and abuse and protect the most vulnerable during this time.
So please, join the National Whistleblower Center on December 1st for #GivingTuesday and lend your support to ensure those brave frontline workers have the protections and incentives they deserve.
Interested in contributing another way? As you shop for holiday gifts and great deals on Amazon, you can support the National Whistleblower Center. Go to smile.amazon.com and select NWC as your non-profit of choice. Then every time you shop, just start at that site. It’ll remember your choice.
It only takes a minute – any amount goes a long way towards the fight against waste, fraud, and abuse.