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Healthcare workers to sue employers over Long Covid consequences

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At least five healthcare workers are holding their employers liable for the emotional and financial damage of Long Covid caused by infections from the workplace, according to RTL Nieuws. Experts interviewed by RTL Nieuws predict this is the beginning of a growing trend.

Personal injury lawyers will represent two of the cases, while the other three are supervised by FNV Bureau Beroepsziekten (Occupational Diseases Bureau). 

One worker, who cares for elderly people, said he was exposed to Covid-19 through a client who had it. His supervisor was aware the client mighty have the illness, but did not let the care worker know. The care worker is still on sick leave almost two years later.

Another worker, an ambulance nurse named Lenny Wagemans, told RTL Nieuws she was exposed to the virus in March 2020 during an ambulance ride with two colleagues. Wagemans jumped out of the ambulance to help a man who was short of breath. She was not wearing a face mask because it was not yet standard procedure for ambulance workers. 

“I held him and supported him to the stretcher. While I did that, he was coughing a lot,” Wagemans said to RTL Nieuws. 

It was later discovered the man had just come from abroad. When Wagemans developed symptoms of coronavirus a few days after, she suspected she caught it from him.

Wagemans blames her workplace for not protecting her better. She told RTL Nieuws that the emergency room should have better questioned the man to recognize a possible coronavirus infection, and her attendant should have better instructed her before she jumped out of the ambulance to help him.

Following her illness, Wagemans was too weak to return to the ambulance and was fired after a year. She is now holding her former employer liable for infection and subsequent Long Covid symptoms.

Employers’ association AWVN objects to such lawsuits. “The coronavirus pandemic has happened to all of us and you cannot blame it,” they said to RTL Nieuws. Meanwhile, experts pointed out the difficulty of demonstrating that one actually caught coronavirus in the workplace. 

“But, despite the fact that these are often lengthy procedures, we think it is important to point out to employers their role and responsibility in this way,” Marike Schooneveldt of the FNV Bureau Beroepsziekten told RTL Nieuws.

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