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Care providers say they've been forgotten in the focus on hospitals and the shortage of protective gear for hospital employees.

COURTESY PHOTO: THE LUND REPORT - Home health care workers feel like they have been forgotten in the COVID-19 fight as attention focuses on protecting hospitals and medical providers. Thousands of home health care workers in Oregon have struggled to protect themselves and their elderly, frail patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

They've cobbled together face masks out of bandanas. They've bought antiviral wipes. They've begged their employers to allow telehealth visits.

But mostly their work — and that of home care workers who help with the basics of daily living — must be done in person and up close.

"It's not possible to stay six feet away," said Joy Vegar, a home care worker in Lakeside in Coos County. "I'm being as careful as I can. It's very scary."

Home health care workers cannot delay their work until after the pandemic is over. They serve clients who need help recovering from an injury or illness or to get by, day by day.

There are tens of thousands of home health and care workers in Oregon. Home care workers, like Vegar, find their own clients and work on their own. Home health workers are usually employed by an agency registered with the Oregon Health Authority. There are nearly 70 home health agencies in the state.

Though the two perform different duties, with home care aides helping with bathing and other functions and home health workers focused on medical conditions, both see patients at their home and both have struggled to protect themselves during the pandemic. Multiple workers in both fields told The Lund Report that though they're on the front lines, they've been forgotten in the focus on hospitals and the shortage of protective gear for hospital employees.

This Lund Report story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.

READ THE FULL STORY HERE.


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