Landmark places 21 unvaccinated workers on leave after compliance inspection

Coronavirus

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Data from the R.I. Department of Health shows two hospitals are not complying with the state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.

The state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital, as well as the Woonsocket-based Landmark Medical Center, are currently listed as non-compliant on the Health Department’s website.

But Carolyn Kyle, a spokesperson for Landmark Medical Center, tells 12 News the hospital has been fully compliant since Monday after placing 21 employees with “religious accommodations” on administrative leave.

“Currently, there are numerous cases already filed and working their way through the federal courts that will ultimately address the issue of whether religious accommodations to COVID-19 vaccine mandates are required,” Kyle explained.

Kyle noted that union employees are on two-week unpaid administrative leave, while non-union employees are on paid leave.

She said the move has given some Landmark employees the impetus to get vaccinated, while the remaining workers will have to tap into their paid time off if they choose to not receive the shot while on administrative leave.

A copy of Landmark’s non-compliance order obtained by 12 News notes that, of the 21 workers, 17 were scheduled to work Nov. 1 when the Health Department conducted an unannounced inspection of the hospital.

Of those 17 workers, six were registered nurses and four were public safety officers. The others were employees in various roles, including a social worker, receptionist and an office coordinator.

The non-compliance order also reveals that Landmark, “acknowledged that the 21 health care workers were unvaccinated and not medically exempt,” but “decided to accommodate health care workers who object to being vaccinated on religious grounds,” and permitted them to enter the hospital, “despite acknowledging that such accommodating” violates the state’s vaccine regulations.

Kyle said the employees will not be able to return to work unless they get vaccinated, adding that the hospital is “always looking” for employees, and is holding a recruitment fair on Friday.

As of Wednesday, Health Department spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said Landmark has not requested a hearing regarding the non-compliance order, and Kyle said she “can’t speak to” whether the hospital will choose to do so.

However, a hearing has been requested to address the situation at the state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital, according to R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH) spokesperson Randal Edgar.

But while the hearing has been requested, Wendelken said one has not yet been scheduled.

Edgar told 12 News six vaccinated registered nurses (RNs) arrived and are currently in orientation as of Thursday. 

“Once these RNs finish orientation, the hospital will have six unvaccinated and four partly vaccinated direct care workers. Our team continues to work to fill these positions with fully vaccinated workers,” Edgar added in a statement to 12 News.

Edgar also noted visitation to the Zambarano unit of Eleanor Slater resumed on Tuesday, after the state-run facility discovered the two new COVID-19 infections. Visitation was suspended for 14 days.

Staff infections at Zambarano halt patient visitations for 14 days »

Thirteen other health care facilities, which range from home-care agencies to urgent-care centers, were listed listed as “compliance under investigation” on the Health Department’s website as of Wednesday evening.

The Health Department defines a “compliant” facility as one that has attested that it is, and will remain, in compliance with the state regulation.

A “non-compliant” facility, however, is defined as one that has reported they are currently not in compliance with the regulation, while “compliance under investigation” includes facilities that have not confirmed their compliance with the regulation, according to the Health Department.

“We are doing follow-up with those facilities because immunization data was not filed with the R.I. Department of Health by the deadlines communicated,” Wendelken said.

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