Faced with a critical self-induced shortage of healthcare workers, the state of Rhode Island has been forced to rehire the unvaccinated and COVID-positive healthcare employees they recently fired for not being vaccinated.
Amid a surge of new coronavirus cases, the state issued new COVID-19 guidelines on Friday, opting to have COVID-positive health care workers continue working if their facility is facing a staffing crisis.
According to Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson from the department of health, “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.”
A memo was sent out to employees of state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital advising them that “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 memo was sent in December to reflect the CDC’s continuous flip-flopping on their COVID guidelines. This also allows Rhode Island to update their isolation policy, which is perhaps best reflected not by any new data, but rather by the stark reality that arbitrary mandates are having a devastating effect on healthcare workers and patients alike.
RI mandated the firing of healthcare workers who possibly experienced prior infection, and have comparable immunity to the vax compounding a preexisting staffing shortage. Why not admit we made a mistake? https://t.co/9CcNv39PQ6— David J Place (@DavidPlace01) January 3, 2022
“Oh crap. We don’t have enough people,” one Eleanor Slater Hospital staffer told the Providence Journal after reading Friday’s memo on opening the option for COVID-positive workers to continue reporting to work.
“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 told the Providence Journal.
According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, workers who are mildly symptomatic at other hospitals or skilled nursing homes in the state can continue working if the facilities are facing a staffing crisis. Any healthcare facility that requires additional staffing must activate crisis staffing mode, then notify the state’s Department of Health.
Like many Democratic states, Rhode Island issued severe mandates against healthcare workers, requiring they be fully vaccinated by October 1st of 2021 or be fired. This resulted in the termination of hundreds of healthcare workers who decided not to be vaccinated for whatever reason.
The self-inflicted shortage of professional medical staff has put a severe strain on the entire healthcare system within the state, forcing Democratic Governor Dan McKee to hold a press briefing regarding the situation.
“The Department of Health and Eleanor Slater did the very best they could do. Sometimes when there’s not a decision to be made, it’s an easy one to make.
“I’m disappointed that we haven’t been able to get everyone vaccinated. But at the same point in time, right now our responsibility is to take care of the patients in the hospital,” McKee said.
Another anonymous health care worker also chimed, stating that allowing fired healthcare workers this choice was the “right thing” to do because, “all hospitals, struggle with staffing. We have no choice.”
New York State (also run by Democrats) finds itself in similar circumstances to Rhode Island. More than 30,000 health care workers have been forced out of their jobs due to vaccine mandates imposed by the governor, forcing the president to deploy military doctors and health care workers to help in New York hospitals amid the spike in omicron variant cases. Unfortunately, we should plan on staffing shortages to take place all across the country where Democrats are in power.