PROVIDENCE R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Department of Health has created a plan aiming to ramp up staffing at nursing homes across the state.
The plan would allow nurses who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic to return to work if the facility is short-staffed.
“If a facility is in dire need of staff, RIDOH may allow the facility to have COVID-19-positive staff work with COVID-19-positive residents. But this would only happen under certain conditions,” RIDOH spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said in a statement.
Nursing homes nationwide have been hit hard by the pandemic, and Rhode Island is no exception. According to the health department, nearly 75% of the state’s COVID-19-related deaths have occurred in nursing homes.
Wendelken said nurses who tested positive but are asymptomatic must pass a thorough screening process before returning to work. They’ll also be required to use separate entrances from all other employees to prevent exposure and have their temperatures checked regularly.
Everyone in a facility who is COVID-19-positive — both patients and staff — will be kept separate from those who are negative, Wendelken added.
“There are health and safety concerns associated with a facility not being adequately staffed. Staffing challenges are heightened when there are large portions of residents who certain staff cannot work with,” he said. “It’s a balancing test when making these decisions about having COVID-19-positive, asymptomatic workers in nursing homes.”
Right now, it appears that the staffing plan will only apply to nursing homes.
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