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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Our Home Health Care Aides Need Masks And Gloves, Irving Park Agency Says

“We’re trying to buy them from all over the place but everything is so backed up,” said the program director at the Romanian American Community Center.

Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
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IRVING PARK — For the last six years, home health aides have visited 82-year-old Rand Anderson three times a week at his home near Oriole Park on the Northwest Side.

But for the last six weeks he hasn’t let them inside because they do not have masks or gloves. 

Anderson isn’t blaming the aides, or the agency they work for, the Romanian American Community Center at 3643 W. Irving Park Rd. Instead, he’s hoping to find a way to get them the personal protective equipment they need to keep themselves and clients like himself safe.

“Everybody is talking about being proactive. Wear a mask, wear gloves, don’t go outside unless necessary. I get it ….yet this agency is stuck because nobody is helping them to help their aides,” Anderson said.

Biana Milita, program director at the Romanian American Community Center, said the organization has not had any success finding masks, gloves and sanitizer since the start of the pandemic. 

“We’re trying to buy them from all over the place but everything is so backed up. We ordered more but it’s taking forever to see anything coming in,” Milita said.

She added they would gladly welcome any donations and said she’s very concerned about her approximately 200 aides who visit the elderly five days a week and help them with healthcare, doing bills, going shopping and cleaning their homes. 

Anderson, who worked as a medical equipment salesman before retiring, said he understands the need for PPE, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I used to cover hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. In the best of times I had to wear a mask and gloves as normal procedure because it is well known that in nursing homes and hospitals that there’s always a problem with infections … and look what’s going on now. These aides and their agency need help,” he said.

Anderson said that he mainly utilizes the aides to help with shopping and picking up prescriptions rather than medical help, and that a friend from his church has been helping while he keeps them from coming inside without PPE. But, he said, “I’m gonna need them in a couple weeks.”  

Anderson, an Army veteran, first applied for assistance and was approved six years ago by Catholic Charities, which two years later turned over the program to Premier Home Health Care Services, which contracts with the Romanian American Community Center to supply the aides. They are among the more than 40,000 workers in Illinois’ Community Care Program, which allows more than 100,000 seniors to stay out of nursing facilities by providing aides who visit the seniors in their homes.

The Better Government Association reported earlier this month that aides and their clients are some of the most susceptible people to the pandemic, yet across Illinois many remain in close quarters and lack protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.

Although home health-care aides are on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis in Illinois, they are not licensed or certified as health care workers. As the state gains access to gloves and masks, such workers do not qualify as “priority health care providers,” a category that is given priority access to protective equipment.

For now, Milita said she’s continuing to try to purchase PPE but is imploring anyone who has some to spare to consider donating to her organization.

“We can’t find it anywhere. If we can get masks and gloves, that would be great. Sanitizer is welcome also but we really need gloves and masks,” Milita said.

The Romanian American Community Center at 3643 W. Irving Park Rd. To contact workers there, call (773) 279-8880.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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