AZ hospital system allowing Covid-positive health care workers to work amid ‘critical staff crisis’

An Arizona hospital system just informed COVID positive staff that they can return to work because facilities are experiencing a “critical staff crisis.”

In a stunning addition to a BPR story this week regarding California healthcare workers being told that they can go to work if they are COVID-positive but asymptomatic, Dignity Health facilities in Maricopa County, Arizona, told St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix to allow COVID-19 positive health care personnel who do not have symptoms or are even “improving with mild symptoms to work without a quarantine period,” in a statement according to ABC15.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure our employees can safely return to work while protecting our patients and staff from the transmissibility of COVID-19,” the statement continued. “The safety of our staff and patients is always our top priority; and we have tremendous gratitude for our dedicated care teams who have worked tirelessly to take care of our communities throughout the pandemic.”

This decision, based upon what is being labeled a “critical staff crisis” specifically in the Dignity Health facilities, according to the ABC affiliate, comes as hundreds of healthcare workers across the country have been laid off for being unvaccinated.

Many question the move which appears to suggest that being sick with COVID but wearing an N-95 mask — as is required under the third-tier guidelines from the CDC regarding COVID-positive healthcare workers — is going to protect the vulnerable hospital population more than having a full staff comprised of healthy workers — albeit non-vaccinated or immune from previous infection.

“These patients are the poorest, the sickest, and the most at risk. To have a healthcare worker who’s going to be dealing directly with these people, coming back coughing, which is exactly what’s been happening…really leaves you no faith in the company that you work for,” one St. Joseph’s healthcare employee who was unhappy with the decision told ABC15.

Indeed, a similar situation arose in Rhode Island recently. Healthcare workers at some facilities there were told that they could go to work if they were only “mildly symptomatic.” Not surprisingly, three days after this order, a hospital that was working under these conditions experienced a COVID outbreak among patients. A spokesman for the Eleanor Slater Hospital insists that the outbreak at the hospital is not connected to any asymptomatic staff members.

“Administrators should be using their clinical judgment in making staffing decisions,” Joseph Wendelken, a Rhode Island Department of Health spokesman indicated. He suggested that some places may determine that “a COVID-19 positive worker should only care for COVID-19 positive patients.”

According to Wendelken, any facility that decided to bring COVID-positive employees back to work would post the information “publicly so patients and families would be aware.”

Healthcare workers and political leaders have expressed dismay at the new rules, worrying about the safety of hospital patients and the logic behind the new guidelines.

“It’s appalling and very disappointing that he would put health care workers, nurses, and of course our patients, in grave danger,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez with the California Nurses Association.

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

Backlash from around the country, particularly in those places being affected by these latest rules, is fierce:

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