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Nurses union signs contract about treating Ebola

The University of Michigan Health System and the state's largest nurses union have signed a contract that protects nurses who care for an Ebola patient. 

The health system and the Michigan Nurses Association announced the agreement Monday. It includes standards for training and protective equipment, as well as provisions on unchanged salary for a quarantined nurse or a nurse who is infected with the virus.

The hospital has agreed to pay for all medical treatment and follow-up, including psychological testing, for nurses who need it.

The union says its research shows many Michigan nurses don't feel prepared to care for an Ebola patient. The state hasn't had any confirmed cases.

The union's director says nurses shouldn't have to worry about their income and job while caring for extremely infectious patients.

“This is groundbreaking language,” said Katie Oppenheim, RN, president of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, in a press release sent out today.

The council represents over 5,000 registered nurses at UMHS.

“Nurses have stepped up and volunteered to care for Ebola patients. Now they can do so knowing that their lives and their income will be protected should they become exposed to the Ebola virus,” says Oppenheim.

According to the MNA, the contract includes the following provisions:

1)      Nurses will not lose their salary or have to use paid time off or extended sick leave if quarantined due to a suspected exposure to the Ebola virus

2)      Nurses will not lose their salary or have to use their paid time off or extended sick leave if they become infected with the Ebola virus

3)      The hospital will pay for all medical treatment and follow-up including psychological testing if warranted

In addition, nurses who have been quarantined or are recovering from the Ebola virus may return to their previous positions, hours of work, and shifts once declared Ebola-free.

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