Pastors call on local nursing homes to implement paid sick leave to protect residents and workers

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By Jordan Green Triad City Beat March 25, 2020

The Rev. CJ Brinson speaks outside of Camden Place Health & Rehab in southwest Greensboro on Wednesday (screenshot)

A group of pastors is calling on a local nursing home to immediately institute paid sick leave to protect workers and residents.

“Elders are particularly vulnerable to dying of complications of coronavirus,” said the Rev. Sadie Lansdale of Unitarian Universalist Church of Greensboro, speaking for Young Clergy Advocates outside Camden Place Health & Rehab in southwest Greensboro during a brief press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “The workers you employ are also members of our community and children of God. They are on the front lines of this health crisis. Employers without 14-day paid sick-leave policies for all workers, in accordance with the CDC recommendations for quarantine from coronavirus, force their employees to come to work sick or having been exposed. This endangers workers and elders alike.

“We realize this is a conversation and a question about what you can afford to do,” Lansdale added. “We are here to tell you today that you can not afford not to make these changes.”

The Rev. Brandon Wrencher said after the press conference that he has spoken with a representative of the nursing home, who told him management is “in deliberations” with its corporate leadership over whether to implement a paid sick-leave policy.

Camden Place is owned by SanStone Health & Rehabilitation, which is based in the Asheville area and operates 17 facilities across North Carolina. Company owner Christopher Sprenger did not immediately return a phone call for this story.

Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that serve medically fragile people have become a focal point of concerns about the spread of the disease since an outbreak of coronavirus at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state led to the deaths of at least 25 residents.

The Center for Disease Control’s “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Preparedness Checklist for Nursing Homes and other Long-Term Care Settings” includes a recommendation to implement “sick leave policies that are non-punitive, flexible and consistent with public health policies that allow ill healthcare personnel to stay home.”

“In a lot of places, hourly employees and part-time employees accrue time off based on the number of days they work,” Lansdale said after the press conference. “They do not distinguish vacation and sick leave. What this means is that if you have taken your vacation and your employer is asking you to come to work, you have to either come to work sick, or not come to work and not get paid.”

Wrencher said that a worker at Spring Arbor of Greensboro, who requested anonymity to protect themselves from retaliation, expressed to him that they were “not feeling supported and safe.” A voicemail message left at the facility on Wednesday was not returned before publication.

Wrencher and Lansdale said at least two facilities have responded to their plea by implementing paid sick leave, including Friends Homes and Accordius Health.

“I think it’s important to reiterate that we’re expressing appreciation for those who have made the change,” Wrencher said. “And to those who haven’t, we’re saying, ‘Your colleagues at other facilities are doing it.’ They cannot afford to not do it, morally, given the times we’re facing.”