Testimony in Favor of HB001/SB230 for Paid Sick Leave

Following is testimony given by Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, presented to the Economic Matters Committee on February 10, 2017.

Good afternoon, Chair Middleton and members of the Finance Committee. I am here as the Health Commissioner of Baltimore City to speak about why SB 230 is important for the health of Maryland.

As an emergency physician, I have seen my patients forgo needed treatment because they are afraid they will lose their jobs.  I can tell you about a 24-year old construction worker who scraped his leg. It developed into a severe infection and he ended up in the hospital on IV antibiotics and came close to having his leg amputated because he waited.

I can tell you about a 52-year old janitor who waited two weeks before coming to the ER and being diagnosed with a heart attack. He now has permanent heart damage as a result, and is on disability and no longer able to work.

I can tell you about the hundreds of people I have treated who have the flu and infectious diarrhea who went to work anyway, and ended up infecting their coworkers and their coworkers’ families.

And I can tell you about the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and other family members who could not care for their children when they were sick, because they couldn’t afford the lost wages or were too afraid for their jobs.

These are not just my experiences. This is also what science and research tells us, that workers without paid sick days are more likely to go work sick and more likely to delay needed medical care.

Studies show that this leads to prolonged illness and expensive ER visits, and it is even more costly for our society as a result.

Studies also show that sick workers pass infectious disease to others and sicken many more people.

A recent study found that flu rates declined in U.S. cities where paid sick leave laws were implemented.

Another study found that more than half of all norovius outbreaks—which causes infectious diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain—can be traced to sick food service workers.

Indeed, we have seen this right here in Maryland, where food handlers who did not have sick leave went to work and spread diseases including typhoid fever to patrons.

Paid sick leave is a public health necessity.

  • It allows the employee to seek medical care promptly and appropriately.
  • It reduces the chance of spreading communicable diseases to other people, including coworkers, patrons and clients.
  • It enables caregivers to care for their loved ones.
  • It levels the playing field and helps to reduce already rampant economic and health disparities.
  • It is the humane thing to do and will prevent illness and save lives.

To protect the health of employees and the health of every Marylander, I urge you to support SB 230.

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