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Nurses, Attorneys and Unions Push to Obtain Benefits for Healthcare Workers

By Erika Vargas, Esq.

Two leading advocacy groups, the California Applicants' Attorneys Association (CAAA) and the California Nurses Association (CNA) seek support for what has become known as the "MRSA Bill" in the California legislature, Assembly Bill (AB) 2616.

MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is one of the most dangerous types of staph infections affecting millions of healthcare workers around the world. Given the nature of their work, healthcare workers are among the most highly exposed to this extremely contagious infectious disease. And, despite various measures to prevent the spread of MRSA in hospitals, the threat of this disease remains ongoing.  

California Healthcare Workers
If it becomes law, AB 2616 will provide a rebuttable presumption in the area of Workers' Compensation for MRSA infections contracted by nurses and healthcare workers who provide direct patient care at acute care hospitals. This means that MRSA would become a presumed work-related injury, without having to go through the hurdles of proving the "injury" occurred on the job. This would expedite Workers' Compensation benefits for those workers who contract the disease and need medical care and temporary disability benefits while they seek to recover from this type of injury. Click here to read about one nurse's struggle to obtain medical treatment for her work-related MRSA infection. 

The attorneys at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK), as members of CAAA and with their history of representing healthcare workers, fully support AB 2616, and have been actively involved in lobbying for its passage.   

The Labor Code currently provides several categories of rebuttable presumptions, all of them generally for male-dominated fields of work.  The intention of AB 2616 is to correct this gender imbalance by extending part of a current presumption to include MRSA skin infections for the nurse and healthcare worker industry, which is predominantly female.

While a huge step forward, the bill is limited in its application.  Essentially an employee must contract the MRSA infection within 60 days of the person's employment with the hospital or within 60 days of termination from employment.

Every day, nurses and other healthcare workers are putting themselves in the "line of fire" by being exposed to work-related hazards. AB 2616 is a step in the right direction by providing the protection that nurses and healthcare workers deserve for the risks they endure every day.   As the bill works its way through the legislature we will keep you apprised of whether it makes it to the Governor's desk and is signed into law.


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