PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Firefighters Union is expressing concerns about the state’s vaccine mandate for health care workers, claiming the city’s fire department stands to lose 10% of its workforce.
The union is asking the state to reconsider the Oct. 1 deadline and allow surveillance testing to continue after that date.
“Even the most well-intentioned policies have consequences, and it is our duty to say that the consequences of this mandate will cause undue hardship on the very firefighters that protected us,” the union said in a statement.
Providence Fire Chief Kevin Dolan said the fire department is currently trying to determine how many of its workers are unvaccinated, adding he’s unsure if the union’s 10% figure is accurate.
The city doesn’t track vaccination rates among its police and fire departments, though the union previously estimated that roughly 80% of the workforce is vaccinated.
Dolan said while regular testing has caught cases within the department, relying on that alone could be risky.
“If you don’t get the test results back, the person is at work and it could [cause] a spreader event,” Dolan said. “So, you know, still vaccination on our part is probably the way — well, it is the way that we want it to be.”
Dolan said ultimately, the department wants its first responders to get the shot, “for protection for ourselves and also for the people that we treat,” however, he does believe that “sometimes things are personal choices.”
“It’s a really tough dilemma. But with the state and the Department of Health, with the mandate, we follow the directions of the Department of Health and where they are. That’s where we are right now,” Dolan said.
The union noted that, if the department were to lose 10% of its workforce, it would lead to “burdensome hours for the remaining firefighters and costly overtime payments for taxpayers.”
12 News reached out to the president of the Providence Firefighter Union for comment but has yet to hear back.
The Providence Firefighter Union isn’t the only one who’s concerned about the mandate.
R.I. State Association of Fire Fighters President Joseph Andriole tells 12 News that, while 92.33% of the association is vaccinated, the union has filed a temporary injunction to try and block that mandate.
The Providence Police Union also issued a statement, in response to the fire union’s post, stating it was against the mandate and “a lack of staffing for first responders creates unimaginable consequences.”