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RI HEALTH

Committee urges McKee to mandate COVID vaccines for staff at Eleanor Slater Hospital

Fewer than half of the workforce at the R.I. state-run hospital have been vaccinated against COVID-19 so far.

The Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston, R.I.
The Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston, R.I.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — A committee that helps oversee the state-run hospital system is asking the McKee administration to require COVID-19 vaccinations for healthcare workers there.

Eleanor Slater Hospital’s healthcare workforce was 47 percent vaccinated against COVID-19 at last check, according to figures from the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. That’s lower than the rate at which Rhode Island adults have been fully vaccinated, 72 percent, and lower than the state’s biggest private hospital systems: 70 percent of Lifespan employees have been vaccinated through its own clinics, and the real number is likely higher because people may have gotten vaccinated on their own. At Care New England, 76 percent are vaccinated against COVID-19.

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On Wednesday, the Joint Conference Committee of the Eleanor Slater Hospital Governing Board voted unanimously to ask Gov. Dan McKee’s administration to require vaccines for healthcare workers at Eleanor Slater, according to Randal Edgar, a BHDDH spokesman. The governing board is made up of people who run the hospital, including top doctors and nurses.

“The committee took this action in light of concerns about the highly communicable Delta variant and the vaccination rate for the hospital’s direct care workers, which was 47 percent at the end of June,” Edgar said.

The rate has only been inching up slightly: 45 percent of the roughly 1,000 healthcare workers at Eleanor Slater had been fully vaccinated as of June, while it reached 47 percent as of July, state data shows.

The administration is reviewing the recommendation, and by itself, the vote does not require anyone to be vaccinated, Edgar said. The recommendation was made to McKee, as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones and BHDDH Director Richard Charest.

McKee has said he is not planning to mandate vaccines for state workers. California and New York City have both said they’ll require workers to get vaccinated or be tested for COVID-19 weekly.

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Eleanor Slater Hospital includes campuses in Cranston and Burrillville. Across the system, the roughly 200 patients have a range of complex psychiatric and medical conditions. The administration of McKee’s predecessor, Gina Raimondo, had proposed overhauling the system, arguing that most patients there did not need a hospital level of care, but McKee put a halt to those plans and is considering its next steps.


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.