By JUSTINE WINNIE
Special to The Stand
LAKEWOOD (April 21, 2020) — Maria Claudio is a psychiatric social worker at Western State Hospital and a vocal member of the Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Local 793. Union members at the state’s largest psychiatric hospital have been fighting for real solutions to the workplace violence that haunts the institution. Now, with the advent of COVID-19, Claudio and her coworkers are facing a new threat.
According to the hospital, more than 30 staff and patients at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
But Claudio is sounding the alarm: negligent and faulty testing at WSH likely means these numbers are much higher.
“How is it possible that we have 30 staff members testing positive for the virus, but only six patients?” asked Claudio. “Either they’re not testing patients, or the tests are inaccurate.”
One patient has passed away from the illness.
Claudio is not stepping down. She continues to call on the hospital to take public health guidance seriously and says management’s failure to act swiftly has placed patients and staff at an elevated risk.
She was featured prominently Monday in this CBS This Morning coverage of COVID-19 outbreaks at psychiatric facilities.
“Me speaking to the press puts a target on my back,” she says. “But somebody has to be willing to put themselves at risk to help others. I’m a social worker. That’s what social work is all about.”
“We need to come together,” Claudio says. “There is power in numbers, and that is what our union gives us. It’s easy to retaliate against and get rid of just one person, but not if there are many of us.”
On behalf of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the 550,000 union members it represents, THANK YOU to Maria Claudio and all of the WFSE/AFSCME members at Western State Hospital. Your dedication to your patients — and to each other — during the COVID-19 outbreak are an inspiration to all.
Do you know union members in Washington state who deserve recognition as Everyday Heroes amid the coronavirus crisis? Share their stories with us!
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