Ebola Federalism, Ctd

A reader pushes back on this post:

Just to be clear here, just because a health-care worker takes time off of work to go volunteer in West Africa in fighting Ebola doesn’t mean that the institution they work for is also volunteering their away time hours. In most cases, the worker must still have accrued enough time off to actually take the vacation in question – and the employer rarely distinguishes between hours off spent sipping martinis in the Maldives and hours off spent replacing IVs in Liberia.

And while the state might reimburse them for the lost wages, that doesn’t mean their medical employer has to welcome them back after three weeks of leaving their workplaces understaffed and their coworkers overworked to fill up the slack. Treating it like the health worker should just be happy they got 21 free days off work is a bit ignorant, and assumes that health care workers are all able to gallivant off from their workplaces. Most workplaces have penalties for taking excessive time off that go well beyond merely suspending pay during the unapproved absence, and those penalties usually include being fired.

But that’s not true here; Cuomo today reassured Ebola volunteers that their jobs will be secure – and then some:

Mr. Cuomo, speaking at an event in Staten Island, noted that the Army was instituting even more restrictive measures on their personnel working in Ebola-infested regions, denying them even contact with their families–and promised New York would duplicate the military’s policy of compensating overseas workers for their time. “If [Mr. Obama]‘s critical of the quarantine, then he has to be highly critical of the Army’s policy,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters today.

“I agree with the president, whose point is, ‘don’t discourage medical workers.’ And that’s why we’ll go the added step of actually putting together a package which I don’t think any other state has done, and which I don’t think the federal government has done.” Mr. Cuomo said he and his aides were meeting with hospitals and other medical organizations to hammer out a package that would guarantee doctors traveling to the nations of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Republic of the Ivory Coast–where Ebola has now killed thousands–a continued income, benefits and job security. “I don’t believe that there is a clash between getting doctors to go to West Africa and an effective quarantine. I don’t believe one is the enemy of the other.

The governor also noted how the NYC area is the most dense in the US, especially compared to a place like Nebraska, “so I don’t know if one-size-fits-all works” regarding the CDC’s nationwide standards. More on the press conference here:

Most of the doctors who go are hospital employees. They tend to be emergency room doctors that go,” the governor said. “I’m asking the hospitals, you tell me: what package I need to put together to encourage medical workers to go and to do it in cooperation with the medical community because the doctors and nurses want to make sure their job are protected when they get back.”

And the fact that Ebola volunteers tend to be ER docs in close contact with trauma patients makes Cuomo’s at-home quarantine even more sensible. Update from a reader:

How does President Obama get to criticize state governors when his Department of Defense has a more stringent policy for service members who have had no contact with ebola patients at all?  My peers and I (just getting back from Afghanistan and about ready to deploy again) were also pretty fucking upset with his poor discussion of what voluntary service to our nation is.

No discussion about this at all?  I’m glad I’m getting out of the service after over a decade. When we fight ebola with the same force we fight ISIS we have completely lost our minds.  When we use different meanings to define voluntary service in the military and in the medical field I feel like we’re leaning towards losing our soul as well.

As I told my friends earlier, I believe we are using the word science when we actually mean policy (or lack there of).