After Firing Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers, Rhode Island Allows 'Insane' Policy Amid Staffing Shortages

Posted: Jan 04, 2022 7:00 AM
After Firing Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers, Rhode Island Allows 'Insane' Policy Amid Staffing Shortages

Source: AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Months after Rhode Island enforced a vaccinate mandate on health care workers in the state, resulting in hundreds of workers being let go, the state is allowing Covid-positive employees to continue working if there is a severe staffing crisis at their facility.

Employees at the state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital received a memo on Friday detailing the conditions under which Covid-19 positive health care workers can remain on the job. If employees have been exposed or are asymptomatic they can report to work "in crisis situations for staffing" if they wear an N95 mask.

Health care workers at other hospitals and skilled nursing home facilities in the state can also continue working amid a staffing crisis if they are “mildly symptomatic.” 

“[F]acility administrators should be using their clinical judgment in making staffing decisions,” Joseph Wendelken, a department of health spokesman, told the Providence Journal. “For example, a facility may opt for a COVID-19 positive worker to only care for COVID-19 positive patients." 

According to Wendelken, if a facility makes the decision to bring Covid-19 positive employees back to work, “that information would be posted publicly so patients and families would be aware.”

As a result, at least two organizations so far have opted to staff operations with coronavirus-positive workers: Eleanor Slater Hospital and Respiratory and Rehabilitation of Rhode Island. The decision on whether to enact the policy is being left up to individual health care facility administrators.

Respiratory and Rehabilitation — a Coventry nursing home — is currently using asymptomatic staff who “recently tested positive,” according to the Health Department. Wendelken said the facility is no longer considered in a “crisis” level of care, but that “the status of the facility is fluid.”

Eleanor Slater, a state-run hospital with campuses in Cranston and Burrillville, used asymptomatic staff on Saturday and Sunday — but not Monday, according to Wendelken.

“These people on Saturday and Sunday were masked, and facility administrators communicated that they would try to have them only caring for COVID-19 positive patients,” he added.

Eleanor Slater employees were first notified on New Year’s Eve that workers who tested positive and were asymptomatic could come into work. A day later, the policy was updated to say that “staff who are exposed or positive and mildly symptomatic may continue to work,” according to a memo reviewed by Target 12. (

"This is insane," responded Fox Business Network's David Asman. "Vaccine mandates caused dangerous staff shortages at hospitals. So now those hospitals are allowing Covid-infected staff to fill the void. That’s the kind of slavish observance of meaningless totalitarian rules we saw under Stalin."

"Another mindless draconian policy that is literally costing lives and worsening Rhode Island's healthcare crisis," tweeted Rhode Island state Sen. Jessica de la Cruz.

"Liberal Logic: FIRE healthy, unvaccinated health care workers, but make COVID-positive health care workers report for duty. Democrat policies make no sense," commented RNC co-chair Tommy Hicks.