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Home Health Workers compensation bill would benefit health care workers with COVID

Workers compensation bill would benefit health care workers with COVID

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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) – Holly Zimmerman is a registered nurse, who was caring for COVID-positive patients in a long-term care facility when he she became ill in late July.

The resident of Bassett hasn’t been the same since contracting COVID-19.

“I’m much improved now, but over the last six months, it’s taken me that long, I had severe cognitive deficits,” Zimmerman told WDBJ7. “There’s two weeks I have no memory of.”

Health issues and overwhelming fatigue are just part of the problem. The illness has also taken a financial toll, and like many other frontline health care workers in Virginia, she’s not eligible for worker’s compensation.

“We have hundreds of health care workers right now who’ve applied for worker’s comp benefits because they’ve been in the hospital, they’ve been on a ventilator, they still need oxygen, they need rehab in order to get their life back after getting this horrible disease and all of their claims are being denied,” said Del. Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg).

Hurst introduced legislation that would extend coverage to include COVID-19 as a work-related illness, for health care workers who are directly involved in the diagnosis and treatment of COVID patients. The measure would be retroactive.

The Senate scuttled a similar measure because of the cost. Employers and insurers fear the impact as well.

John Heard represented the Virginia Self-Insurers Association during a committee hearing in January.

“Nobody knew the potential impact of this virus early last year,” Heard told lawmakers. “Sufficient premiums have not been collected. And we really still don’t understand what the latent medical effects of this virus may be.”

But Hurst and advocates for the state’s health care workers are hoping limits to the legislation will make it more acceptable to members of the Senate, and offer some help for health care workers like Holly Zimmerman.

Copyright 2021 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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