After firing hundreds of healthcare workers who did not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Rhode Island’s healthcare system is asking COVID-positive workers to come back to work because of a staffing shortage.
The state’s Department of Health released quarantine and isolation guidance last week that instructs all staffers, regardless of whether they are sick with COVID, to work during “crisis” situations.
“Crisis staffing means there are no longer enough staff to provide safe patient/resident care,” the memo reads.
In these scenarios, “those who are exposed or have a positive Covid test but are asymptomatic” can continue reporting to work “in crisis situations for staffing” if they wear N95 masks, the guidance says.
“Also, 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,” Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson from the department of health, told the Providence Journal on Saturday.
Wendelken said none of Rhode Island’s hospitals have had to call in COVID-positive workers yet, but “if a facility does reach that point, that information would be posted publicly so patients and families would be aware.”
Rhode Island fired hundreds of unvaccinated healthcare workers in October. At least one state-run hospital, Eleanor Slater Hospital, refused to fire unvaccinated direct care workers right away, arguing there would not be enough staffers to take care of patients if they did.
Republicans in the state slammed Democrats’ vaccine mandate for creating the staffing shortages that now threaten Rhode Island’s healthcare system.
State Sen. Jessica de la Cruz urged Rhode Island to re-hire all of the unvaccinated healthcare workers it fired.
RIDOH will allow healthcare staff who test positive w/COVID to work but not unvaxxed healthcare staff who test negative?!
Its time for the state to admit its mistake. We need all hands on deck to address the healthcare crisis. Rehire these qualified & experienced professionals https://t.co/nzX41Nbz2b
— Senator Jessica de la Cruz (@JessicaforRI) January 2, 2022