A memo was sent out to all employees of Rhode Island’s Eleanor Slater Hospital with an interesting message. Due to employee shortages, “those who are exposed or have a positive Covid test but are asymptomatic” will be able to continue working “in crisis situations for staffing” so long as they wear N95 masks.
Eleanor Slater Hospital is a state run hospital which has implemented vaccine mandates for all health care workers. NBC 10 News reported hundreds of health care workers in the state were terminated as a result of needing to be fully vaccinated by October 1 of 2020. However, due to extreme staffing shortages, Eleanor Slater allowed 32 unvaccinated employees to remain on the job.
Allowing COVID positive nurses to continue to report for work is a far cry from a full vaccination mandate. Nonetheless, the hospital memo came shortly after the CDC updated its isolation and quarantine guidance.
Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson from the Department of Health, told the Providence Journal “facility administrators should be using their clinical judgment in making staffing decisions. For example, a facility may opt for a COVID-19 positive worker to only care for COVID-19 positive patients.”
“For the general public, the updated guidance (which shortens the isolation and quarantine period in some instances) is reflective of science that indicates that most SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness,” Wendelken added.
Fox News reports “Workers at other hospitals and skilled nursing homes in the state who are ‘mildly symptomatic’ can also continue working if the facilities are facing a staffing crisis, according to the Rhode Island Department of Health.”
Any hospital that needs to allow a covid positive employee to work due to crisis staffing mode needs to notify the state Department of Health. Wendelken said so far hospitals have not needed to do so.
“No, no facility has reported to us yet that they are in a position that requires COVID-19 positive healthcare providers to be working. If a facility does reach that point, that information would be posted publicly so patients and families would be aware,” Wendelken told the Providence Journal.
One anonymous health care worker told the Journal that opening the option was the “right thing” to do because “all hospitals, [struggle] with staffing. We have no choice.”
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