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National Nurses United, with nearly 225,000 members nationwide, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in U.S. history.

In 2009, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee played a lead role in bringing state nursing associations across the nation together into one national organization, National Nurses United (NNU). At its founding convention, NNU adopted a call for action to counter what it called “the national assault by the healthcare industry on patient care conditions and standards for nurses,” and to promote a unified vision of collective action for nurses.

This month, nurses across California are applauding the introduction of A.B. 1156, authored by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) and sponsored by California Nurses Association (CNA). The organization held a press conference about the proposed law on April 5 at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center.

If passed, the presumptive eligibility bill would automatically provide workers’ compensation to nurses and other health care workers for a variety of injuries and illnesses. The association says that amidst a staffing crisis in the nursing profession, this legislation would help increase the retention of skilled nurses in California hospitals.

Our workers’ compensation system is currently set up to delay and deny the healing that nurses need after we are injured and sickened on the job,” said Valerie Delgado, an RN at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center’s Covid-19 unit. “This not only hurts nurses, but also reduces the quality of patient care because it reduces the number of healthy and skilled nurses in hospitals.”

“Our frontline health care workers face a clear gender gap in presumptive access to worker’s compensation, simply because they are in a female-dominated profession,” explained Assemblymember Bonta (D-Oakland). “Simply put, there are certain injuries and illnesses that are presumed to be work-related for firefighters and police officers, allowing the employee to more easily access benefits, covering medical and other expenses resulting from the employee being unable to work. Our healthcare heroes deserve the same presumption.”

“Nurse’s on-the-job injuries – MRSA [Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus], respiratory diseases, and physical injuries – are not presumed to be related to the job,” said Bonta. “A.B. 1156will change that and ensure that nurses are treated with the same respect, dignity, and care they deserve and show patients every single day.”

If passed in its current form, A.B 1156 would define “injury,” for a hospital employee who provides direct patient care in an acute care hospital, to include infectious diseases, cancer, musculoskeletal injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and respiratory diseases.

The bill would include the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, among other conditions, in the definitions of infectious and respiratory diseases.

The bill would create rebuttable presumptions that these injuries that develop or manifest in a hospital employee who provides direct patient care in an acute care hospital arose out of and in the course of the employment. The bill would extend these presumptions for specified time periods after the hospital employee’s termination of employment.