PROVIDENCE — Despite being given more than five weeks’ advance notice, 92 health care facilities were not able to meet the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate deadline for health care workers on Friday and have requested a 30-day extension.
Governor Dan McKee announced in mid-August that all health care workers in the state would have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1 or risk losing their jobs, and possibly their professional licenses. But on Saturday morning, the state health department published a lengthy list of facilities that were not fully compliant by the deadline.
Included in those 92 facilities were seven major hospitals: state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital, Prime Healthcare’s Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket, Yale New Haven Health Center’s Westerly, and the Newport, Rhode Island (which includes Hasbro Children’s), The Miriam, and Bradley Hospitals, all four of which are owned by Lifespan Corp.
On Friday, many Lifespan employees told the Globe that they received letters from their human resources departments saying they had been placed on administrative unpaid leave and will be terminated after the leave’s two weeks are up on Oct. 16.
Both Lifespan and Care New England, the state’s two largest health care facilities, told the Globe that they would not employ any health care workers who had not received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine by the Oct. 1 deadline.
“They are off the schedule... They will separate from employment,” said Cathy Duquette, Lifespan Corp.’s chief nursing executive, in an interview with the Globe on Wednesday.
Lifespan spokeswoman Kathleen Hart told the Globe on Friday that 98 percent of its workforce was vaccinated and fewer than 400 employees were unvaccinated.
“But we are continuing to have vaccine clinics today and are prepared to welcome back them back if they comply with the vaccine requirement,” she said on Friday.
On Saturday, the state department of health noted that four Lifespan hospitals had requested a 30-day extension.
“On Oct. 1, any Lifespan employees who refused the COVID-19 vaccine were separated from employment. Partially vaccinated employees have until Oct. 31 to receive their second dose and submit proof of vaccination, and must continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice weekly, until they are fully vaccinated,” said Hart in a statement Saturday afternoon. “We submitted a plan to the state for completing vaccination of partially vaccinated employees, in accordance with the RIDOH compliance advisory.”
She added, “Former employees who declined the vaccine are always encouraged to reapply should they decide to get vaccinated.”
Executives at Care New England (which owns Women & Infants, Butler, and Kent Hospitals) and South County Hospital (the state’s only independently owned hospital) told the Globe Friday that they were 100 percent compliant with the state’s mandate.
“As health care workers it is our responsibility to provide an environment that is safe for all patients seeking treatment at our hospitals, as well as our staff,” Dr. James E. Fanale, the president and CEO of Care New England, said in a statement on Friday. “Healthcare workers who were not vaccinated before today are not being allowed to work at any Care New England hospital, in order to preserve our commitment to world class care for our patients, and to protect staff.”
Also late Friday, the department took action against Dr. Stephen P. Skoly, a Cranston dentist who said he was not vaccinated and would continue to treat patients. In a compliance order that was signed by health director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, which was obtained by the Globe, Skoly was ordered to stop practicing until he was compliant.
Alexa Gagosz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.