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RI HEALTH

R.I.’s largest hospital systems say unvaccinated workers will no longer be employed after Oct. 1 deadline

Both Lifespan and Care New England, which own most of Rhode Island’s hospitals, said all employees who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 1 will lose their jobs

Denise A. Beretta, a respiratory care specialist, gets her coronavirus COVID -19 vaccine at Rhode Island Hospital.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s two largest health care systems said they will not employ any health care workers who have not received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by Friday, the deadline for the state’s vaccine mandate.

“They are off the schedule... They will separate from employment,” said Dr. Cathy Duquette, Lifespan Corp.’s chief nursing executive, in an interview with the Globe Wednesday. More than 96 percent of its workforce was vaccinated against COVID as of Wednesday, she said.

Lifespan owns The Miriam, Hasbro, Newport, Bradley, and Rhode Island Hospitals and employs more than 16,000 people. Staffing shortages forced them to bring in 60 traveling nurses just for the month of September.

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Duquette said there are clinics being held on Wednesday and Thursday to vaccinate any remaining workers, and she saw a “quite a line of employees.” She said, “We are heading into Friday optimistic.”

At Care New England, more than 95 percent of the workforce has been vaccinated, according to spokeswoman Raina Smith. The health system’s President and CEO Dr. James E. Fanale said in a statement that the system, which owns Women and Infants, Butler, and Kent Hospital, will be compliant with the state’s Oct. 1 deadline. Any employees who are still unvaccinated by then will no longer be working for the system.

“As of the Oct. 1 deadline, Care New England will be 100 percent compliant with the RIDOH’s vaccine mandate,” said Fanale. “As healthcare workers, we are committed to providing an environment that is safe and healthy for patients, as well as staff.”

“As of Oct. 1, any Care New England healthcare worker who is not vaccinated will not be allowed to work,” he said.

Smith did not respond to questions from the Globe about how many employees were still unvaccinated at CNE.

In mid-August, Governor Dan McKee and the state health department had announced that all health care workers in the state would be required to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Few medical exemptions have been considered and approved, but religious ones are not. Four health care workers in the state took their issue with the state’s vaccine mandate to court, but it’s unclear if they will still be able to work in-person in health care until the judge rules.

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When asked if a health care worker changes their mind about getting vaccinated after they lose their job, and if their license hasn’t yet been suspended by the state, Duquette said some workers may be able to get vaccinated and reapply for their jobs.

“We welcome back anyone who changes their mind and gets vaccinated if their position is still available. But we want to avoid that situation. So if you’re going to get the vaccine, get it done today or tomorrow,” she said.



Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.