PROVIDENCE — The deadline for Rhode Island’s vaccine mandate for health care workers passed on Sunday, and 94 percent of the state’s health care workers have been fully vaccinated, according to a random audit for vaccination status conducted by the state health department.
When Governor Dan McKee announced this summer that there would be a vaccine mandate for all health care workers in the state, he said that any employee who went unvaccinated wouldn’t be allowed in the building.
But as the original deadline — Oct. 1 — approached, McKee’s administration began softening the regulation. He then said unvaccinated workers could stay on for an additional 30 days if their employer said they were “critical” for patient care.
More than 90 facilities had to ask for that extension, including Lifespan, the state’s largest hospital system (A Lifespan spokeswoman previously said only partially vaccinated workers stayed on throughout October, and no unvaccinated employees kept their jobs).
Joseph Wendelken, the state health department spokesman, told the Globe Monday that the state is not keeping track of the number of employees who were laid off for not being compliant with the mandate.
“Employing someone or discontinuing employment is a matter handled by healthcare organizations. Our concern is with licensure,” he said in an email.
Wendelken explained that a Compliance Order has only been issued to one licensee because of that person’s vaccination status. Dr. Stephen Skoly, a Cranston dentist who had told the Providence Journal previously that he was unvaccinated but would continue to see patients, received the compliance order signed by health director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott on Friday. He cannot practice until he complies with the order and has 10 days to request a hearing.
On Thursday, the state told the Globe that there were no unvaccinated health care workers in Rhode Island whose licenses had been suspended. The state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital, will continue to allow unvaccinated direct care workers to work: As of Friday, 32 direct-care workers at Eleanor Slater remained unvaccinated, and 11 non-direct care workers were unvaccinated.
“We have not taken a final disciplinary action on any healthcare provider’s license. All healthcare providers are entitled to due process when it comes to the State’s health regulations,” Wendelken said at the time.
He told the Globe Monday that for the other licensees who are not vaccinated, those individuals all either had medical exemptions or were licensed in Rhode Island, but do not provide patient care in the state.