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After Weeks Of ‘Treating Waves Of Patients Sickened By The Coronavirus,’ Orange Regional Medical Center Employees ‘Petition For Hazard Pay’

Published Thursday, May 7, 2020
by Chris McKenna/Middletown Times Herald-Record
After Weeks Of ‘Treating Waves Of Patients Sickened By The Coronavirus,’ Orange Regional Medical Center Employees ‘Petition For Hazard Pay’

(TOWN OF WALLKILL, NEW YORK) - After weeks of treating waves of patients sickened by the Coronavirus, Orange Regional Medical Center Employees are signing an on-line petition seeking bonus pay for laboring under intense pressure and risking their own health and that of their families.

A human resources executive turned down the request in an e-mail to Union Leaders, but said the hospital will reconsider once it knows how much Federal Stimulus money it will receive and is allowed to reopen out-patient services that will improve its strained finances.

That petition at one of the region’s largest hospitals was one thrust in a continuing push by Union Leaders and Federal Lawmakers to offer more than applause and supportive lawn signs to Front Line Workers in the Coronavirus Crisis, now entering its third month in New York.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and fellow Democrats took up the cause a month ago by proposing the government provide $25,000 bonuses to all Essential Workers, from Doctors and Nurses to Grocery Store Workers who also are risking exposure to the virus every day.

Republican U.S. Senator Mitt Romney is pitching a different plan to offer employers Federal Tax Credits to award Hazard Pay.

U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (Democrat-Cold Spring) introduced a bill this week that would offer a $7,500 Tax Credit to any Health Care Worker earning less than $100,000 and employed by a facility that treated COVID-19 patients.

He is also proposing a tax exemption for Essential Workers on income they earned during the national emergency.

“It’s one more way for us to honor those who are saving lives and putting their own on the line,” Maloney said in a statement.

Rich Panio, a Respiratory Therapist at Orange Regional, knows too well the hazards that Hospital Workers are facing. 

He spent six weeks intubating COVID-19 patients too sick to breathe on their own and then caught the virus he had been helping them fight, even with the protective gear he wore.

His conditioned worsened until his liver and kidneys began to fail and he wound up hospitalized and treated by his own Co-Workers for four days.

Now recovering at home in Ulster County and isolated to protect his wife and teenage daughter, Panio argues the constant exposure Hospital Workers face and the extended and drastic disruption of their lives justify some compensation.

“I’ve been stuck in my basement now for two and a half weeks, away from my family,” Panio said.

The hospital’s management has been receptive to those pleas from Employees, he said.

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