4 problems with Amazon's emergency care for workers
Amazon operates on-site emergency clinics, named AmCare, for workers. The idea is that employees can go to those facilities, which have on-staff, licensed emergency medical technicians and injury prevention specialists, and get treated faster without needing to travel off-site.
As convenient as this may sound, however, reports suggest there are some issues with that approach. Here are some of them.
1. On-site care could mask a more significant problem
From the outside, the fact that Amazon has an emergency clinic makes the company appear especially committed to keeping its workers healthy. But, injuries are incredibly common at Amazon's fulfillment centers. An external investigation showed that they spike during the holiday season.
People assert Amazon knows it's asking too much of workers, but doesn't want to make the necessary changes. Public awareness of Amazon's clinic may give some individuals the impression that Amazon treats its workers well enough now. But, that doesn't seem accurate based on other data.
2. The medical workers hired by Amazon may lack appropriate supervision
State laws vary concerning the amount of care an EMT can give a patient without supervision from a doctor. New Jersey is one state that requires EMTs, as well as athletic trainers, which Amazon also hires, to only give medical attention while a physician supervises. But, as a report from The Intercept detailed, Amazon's staff worked outside their scope of practice.
A related issue is that safety managers oversee each Amazon clinic. Multiple former Amazon workers told The Intercept that extensive medical training is not a prerequisite for working in that role, however. That could mean egregious errors go unnoticed or unrecognized.
3. Employees complain that Amazon doesn't handle injuries correctly
All companies should have clearly documented workplace injury procedures, such as to provide immediate care to the injured person and fill out the proper forms. However, reports from workers indicate that Amazon falls short in caring for its injured workers.
A Mother Jones article reported about the case of Meris Whitacre, who initially went to an Amazon clinic with a back pain complaint. Whitacre said her manager and the human resources department at Amazon didn't know which paperwork she needed to have to see a doctor approved by the company's workers' compensation program. Whitacre eventually got diagnosed with issues that warranted taking two months of disability leave.
However, once Whitacre went back to work, her manager would only allow her to do the same tasks that caused her injuries. Once the problems returned, Whitacre went back to Amazon clinics several times. However, the staff there told her to stop coming and said that scoliosis, a previously existing condition, caused the pain. Amazon ultimately fired her for taking too much time off and for what they deemed "disciplinary issues."
Whitacre thinks Amazon's goal is to avoid paying workers' compensation. She told a Mother Jones reporter, "Instead of applying for workers' comp when they know you hurt your back, they want you to go to AmCare. I just don’t understand why a company that makes over a trillion dollars can’t pay workers' comp."
D’Anna Smith, another worker cited in the Mother Jones article, said her employee training discussed going to Amazon's clinic for pain issues and injuries. However, when she reported having a hurt shoulder to a manager, that person allegedly criticized her reduced production output rather than sending her to Amazon's clinic.
4. Amazon may use its clinics as an improper substitute for hospital care
Some people have also spoken out to say that the treatment at AmCare is a poor and unwarranted replacement for getting workers seen at hospitals. Billy Foister was a 48-year-old Amazon worker who had a fatal heart attack while on a shift. He had gone to an Amazon clinic a week before, complaining of chest pain and a headache. The staff there told him he was dehydrated and sent him back to work after he consumed two beverages.
Foister's brother Edward said, "There was no reason for my brother to have died. He went to AmCare complaining about chest pains. He should have been sent to the hospital, not just sent back to work just to put things like toothpaste in a bin so somebody can get it in an hour. It seems Amazon values money way more than life. If they did their job right, I wouldn’t have had to bury my little brother."
There's another controversy surrounding that event because multiple sources reported Foister was unconscious on the floor for 20 minutes before anyone noticed and got help.
These four problems associated with Amazon's clinics are not the only ones, but they're among the most disturbing. No matter what someone thinks of Amazon as a company, these examples raise serious concerns about worker treatment.