As an emergency department attending physician here in Maine, not a shift goes by without me seeing a hardworking person affected by their lack of paid sick days. Regardless of the specific scenario, the one consistent element is the delay in seeking help or treatment because of the need to prioritize keeping their job over any personal needs. A few examples:

Delayed treatment for a young daughter with asthma who became sick in the early morning but could not be seen until 18 hours later, after Mom finished the second of two jobs she worked that day. The child’s wheezing had worsened dramatically due to the delay. Neither of the mother’s jobs allowed her to leave without a perceived threat of losing that job.

A man in his early 40s with diabetes continued to work “through a bad cold” long hours, six days a week, for almost three weeks until he literally collapsed at work. Employees called 911. He arrived severely short of breath with pneumonia.

I’m writing in support of the earned paid sick days that will be formally reviewed Tuesday by the Health and Human Services Committee of the Portland City Council. Similar legislation has been passed in eight states and 30 cities with profound success. I’m hoping that your readers who reside in Portland will speak with their local councilperson in support of their fellow citizens.

Carl Ramsay, M.D.


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