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RI HEALTH

Landmark places 21 unvaccinated employees on leave, each of them with religious exemptions

State-run Eleanor Slater Hospital, the only other hospital that had received a violation notice regarding unvaccinated workers, requested a hearing with the state health department.

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Landmark Medical Center has placed 21 unvaccinated employees on leave, one week after receiving a violation notice from the state health department.

Spokeswoman Carolyn Kyle told the Globe the Woonsocket-based hospital had placed the unvaccinated workers who each had “religious accommodations” on administrative leave, which brought the hospital into “full compliance” with the state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“Currently, there are numerous cases already filed and working their way through the federal courts that will ultimately address the issue of whether religious accommodations to COVID-19 vaccine mandates are required,” Kyle wrote in an emailed statement.

Landmark, which is owned by Prime Healthcare, a for-profit health system based in Ontario, California, has not responded to interview requests with CEO and chairman Michael R. Souza or follow-up questions on the matter.

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On Nov. 1, the state health department conducted an unannounced inspection of Landmark, and found 21 health care workers (17 who were scheduled to work that day) unvaccinated and did not receive a medical exemption.

Landmark “had decided to accommodate health care workers who object to being vaccinated on religious grounds, permitting such health care workers to enter [Landmark’s] premises,” read the notice by the state health department.

Landmark’s actions are despite the state not allowing religious exemptions for the vaccine. At the end of September, a US District Court judge had denied a temporary restraining order filed by health care workers who sued the state over not accepting religious exemptions for the Oct. 1 health care vaccine mandate.

Kyle did not respond to questions asking if Landmark’s executive leadership has found replacements or if they are hoping religious exemptions will be allowed in the future. But Joseph Wendelken, the spokesman for the state health department, said the state has not received any updates from Landmark since the violation notice was issued last week.

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State-run Eleanor Slater Hospital, the only other hospital that had received a violation notice regarding unvaccinated workers, requested a hearing with the state health department. Wendelken said a hearing has not been scheduled yet, but that the compliance order becomes enforceable once there is a hearing.

As of Tuesday night, there were 12 unvaccinated health care workers, including four that were partially vaccinated, at Eleanor Slater according to Randal Edgar, a spokesman for the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

It’s unclear if there will be any action on Eleanor Slater’s license or if they will be fined as a result of the hearing.


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