Student health center administration denies nurses’ grievance, refuses to conduct contact tracing

By Kallie Cox, Editor-in-Chief

Edited 1/22/2021 10:!8 a.m.

SIU’s Student Health Center’s administration denied a grievance by nurses of the Health Center who filed it after the administration failed to notify them of their exposure to another nurse who tested positive for COVID-19. The Health Center said they aren’t responsible for contact tracing. The matter will now move to arbitration.

The Illinois Nurses Association filed the grievance with the Health Center on Dec. 11 after it alleged the university refused to alert health center staff that one of the nurses tested positive for COVID-19 and they may have been exposed.

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(See more: Illinois Nurses Association files grievance with SIU health center).

Lori Stettler, the vice chancellor for student affairs and the administrator the health center reports to, said in response to this: “As we have stated previously, all contact tracing  is done by the Jackson County Health Department.”

Both the CDC and Illinois Department of Public Health say employers should inform their employees of positive cases of COVID-19 in their workplace.

(See more: IDPH COVID-19 guidelines).

(See more: CDC guidelines).

Héctor Rosa, a staff specialist with the INA, said the administration denied the grievance on the basis that it was “untimely.”

“They tried to use the fact that the pandemic started in April to say that we should have filed back in April but that is ridiculous because how do we know that they were doing tracing or not if nobody was infected,” Rosa said.

Rosa said the INA is appealing the decision which is what is bringing it to arbitration, but it could be a slow process.

“With COVID, it’s made it even slower,” Rosa said. “So I have no idea how long it will take. It could be anywhere from a month to a year, the arbitration both parties have to give their side and then the arbitrator has to give his or her ruling.”

Jamie Beckman, president of the nurses union at SIU, said as health care professionals, taking care of students and staff should be seen as the most important thing.

“I’m angry that they decided to go this way when all they had to do was say they would notify staff as per the CDC and IDPH guidelines suggest,” Beckman said.

Rosa said he doesn’t understand why the administration is not taking the safety of the staff and student body seriously.

“It makes no sense that parents are sending their students to this university thinking they’re going to be [safe], safety is a priority and management is pretty much saying it’s not a priority. I really don’t think that’s right,” Rosa said.

Dr. Ted Grace, the health center’s director and Dr. Paul Bennett, the medical chief of staff did not respond to requests for comment as of publication deadline. 

Editor-in-Chief Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.

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