CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island hospital is grappling with an outbreak of coronavirus cases among patients just days after the state-run facility called in COVID-19-positive workers to help cover shifts amid an ongoing staffing shortage.
Eleanor Slater Hospital, one of two area health care facilities to use COVID-positive workers under the new policy, reported 28 patients had tested positive for the virus as of Thursday morning, totaling about 14% of the facility’s roughly 200 patients. The outbreak of cases comes in the wake of the state announcing it would align with federal guidance and permit COVID-positive health care workers to continue treating patients.
Eleanor Slater used two asymptomatic COVID-positive workers to staff operations on Saturday and three more on Monday, according to the state’s website.
“As Eleanor Slater Hospital takes steps to control COVID infections, staff and administrators are working very hard under incredibly challenging conditions to provide the best care for ESH patients,” spokesperson Randy Edgar wrote in a statement. “Eleanor Slater, like other hospitals, is facing added staffing challenges because of COVID.”
Edgar did not immediately respond to a question about whether the hospital could determine if the 28 patient cases were connected to the COVID-positive workers. Edgar said the state would continue to update its website on a regular basis to inform the public about future COVID-related information, including new cases moving forward.
The lack of health care workers available to cover shifts reflects an ongoing staffing crisis in Rhode Island that has worsened in recent months. The state’s largest private, nonprofit hospitals earlier this week said they have not yet had to use the new policy.