R.I. outlines health care employee vaccination mandate

Updated at 4:54 p.m.

DETAILS OF R.I. Gov. Daniel J. McKee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers in the state revealed that employees not vaccinated by Oct. 1 will not be permitted to enter health care facilities, at the risk of financial penalty and the potential suspension of their facility's license. / AP FILE PHOTO/STEVEN SENNE

PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Department of Health on Wednesday released new details of the state’s previously announced COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

As announced previously by Gov. Daniel J. McKee, health care workers will be required to have received their final dose of a COVID vaccine by Oct. 1. Employees that fail to comply with the mandate will not be allowed to enter a health care facility unless they can provide proof of a medical exception, the department said.

The mandate applies to all health care employees, interns and volunteers, including those with direct patient contact and those who may not be involved in patient care.

Employees that violate the mandate may be subject to financial penalties, DOH said. In addition, noncompliance could lead to the potential suspension or revocation of a health care facility’s license. 

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Employees may also be subject to disciplinary action from the affected employer, the department said.

“The most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the delta variant, is vaccination,” stated R.I. Director of Health Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. “For the safety of our health care workers, patients, and for our health care system overall, today’s announcement is a very important step.”

United Nurses and Allied Professionals President Lynn Blais issued a statement supporting the mandate but raising concerns about its implementation.

“While we … support the mandatory vaccine requirement, there are issues surrounding the implementation of the mandate that we believe should be bargained, including the scope of medical exemptions and flexibility around the Oct. 1st deadline for our members who have yet to get their first vaccine shot,” Blais said. “We believe the UNAP, the state of Rhode Island, and hospital employers must keep an open dialogue on these issues, especially in light of the ongoing nursing shortage.”

(ADDS last two paragraphs with union reaction.)

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