Local health care professionals on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic called Wednesday for regional leaders to establish emergency child care programs that would allow medical workers to continue treating COVID-19 patients, while ensuring their children are cared for.
The San Diego Emergency Child Care Task Force — made up of members from the region’s early childhood education and care community — put forth a proposal last week calling for child care vouchers for essential medical workers and for local school districts to potentially re-open a limited number of care centers.
The county has not yet made a decision regarding the proposal.
Many of the affected workers shared their stories during a Wednesday news conference, in which they said school closures have forced them to enlist family members and anyone else available to care for their children. Others did not have that luxury and could only ask people who cannot leave their homes due to self-quarantining.
Rebecca Bland, a health care worker at Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside, said she and her husband have nearly exhausted their options to find someone to care for their children.
“Our children are forced to be home from school right now and our jobs are forcing us to be at work right now, so something’s got to give. Both of those options are colliding with each other,” Bland said.
Bland said she’s had to use her paid time off to stay at home.
Timothy Nipper, who also works at Tri-City Medical Center, said he’s been paying his 17-year-old niece $100 per week to watch his children, with his job sometimes keeping him out of the home for long hours.
“I’m calling on whoever is in power, legislature, governor, everyone to please help assist with this,” Nipper said. “It’s extremely stressful to go to work and focus on taking care of others when you are limited on taking care of your own family. We just need the help and we deserve the help because we are on the frontlines.”
With COVID-19 cases expect to continue their surge, health care workers say even more of their time and energy will be needed to treat a growing number of patients.
“As a result of school and child care closures, thousands of employees in our health care systems need emergency child care,” said Dimitrios Alexiou, president and CEO of the Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial counties. “Some health care workers have been able to patch together short-term solutions that allow them to continue working, but this is not sustainable. Without the necessary health care workforce, hospitals will face additional challenges preparing for the pending surge of COVID-19 cases. It is essential that our region work quickly towards an emergency child care solution that meets the complex needs of healthcare workers.”
The full proposal can be viewed at workforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/SD-County-Emergency-Child-Care-Plan-5.0-overview.pdf.
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