• September 29, 2020

GUEST VIEW: Healthcare workers shouldn’t have to decide between their own health and that of patients. Period. - Odessa American: Columns

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GUEST VIEW: Healthcare workers shouldn’t have to decide between their own health and that of patients. Period.

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Posted: Wednesday, April 29, 2020 12:30 pm

In times of crisis, Texans are always eager to lend a hand. I think about those who came together in the wake of Hurricane Harvey to lead search and rescue operations, clear debris and rebuild their communities. Though the crisis we face today is an entirely different breed, that same Texas generosity is still easy to find.

From organizations like the Houston Food Bank stocking families’ pantries, to alcohol producers like Gulf Coast Distillers donating hand sanitizer, to a personal protective equipment (PPE) drive at Minute Maid Park — these stories are a reliable source of comfort amid so much uncertainty.

As Texans work together to flatten the curve and support one another, I’m continuing the fight in Congress to get the resources our healthcare workers and local leaders need.

I recently held a video conference with members of the Texas Nurses Association and heard from Kimberly Curtin, a nurse practitioner at MD Anderson, about the need for additional PPE such as masks, gloves and gowns. She said nurses are given a clean mask at the start of each shift, and that mask is supposed to last an entire day. After hours of wear, masks can become damp and soiled and carry germs from one patient to another. This practice is unsafe for both our healthcare workers and their patients.

Congress has provided billions of dollars to increase our nationwide supply of PPE. Recent legislation included $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile to procure PPE and other medical supplies. It also provided $1 billion for the Defense Production Act to bolster domestic supply chains and speed up production for PPE, as well as ventilators and other urgently needed equipment.

Our healthcare workers should never be in a position where they’re forced to decide between their own health and that of patients. Period.

A key component of our ability to slow the spread, and eventually defeat COVID-19, is through testing. The sooner we can identify positive cases, the sooner these individuals can self-isolate, and notify those with whom they’ve been in contact. Congress has passed legislation to expand testing capacity and make testing free of charge for all Texans. Last week, we took another major step forward and provided an additional $25 billion to support and expand state-led testing.

We also bolstered funding to support our hospitals. Urban and rural hospitals alike are being crushed by the weight of this virus, and they need financial assistance to survive. Congress has provided $175 billion to help our hospitals and healthcare providers keep their doors open.

One of the cascading effects of this virus is the broader impact on our healthcare system. The surge in coronavirus led to a statewide postponement of elective surgeries. In the beginning, this made sense: we needed to free-up medical resources to fight COVID-19. We must remember, though, that “elective” doesn’t mean “unimportant.” Procedures covered by these cancellations include everything from cancer biopsies to organ transplants, and patients living with chronic pain who once had a surgery date — a sign of hope — had to continue living with the pain.

A recent executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott has loosened these restrictions and given hospitals the ability to perform procedures that aren’t expected to reduce coronavirus response capacity. This is welcome news for Texans whose procedures have been postponed and marks a small but significant step toward restoring normal operations.

As we look for that light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important to remember that much is still unknown about COVID-19. While we are learning more and making progress every day, the right balance needs to be struck to ensure public safety.

While Texans continue to support their communities, I want to thank those who are in the trenches battling this virus. Texas’ doctors, nurses, first responders and healthcare workers make physical and emotional sacrifices every day to support their patients. These brave men and women offer more than lifesaving care — they’re a hand to hold, a friendly face and a source of comfort for patients who are isolated from family and friends.

Thank you to the healthcare workers who are keeping Texans safe. We stand with you.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

Odessa, TX

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