Governor, RIDOH Announce Enforcement Strategy for October 1 Healthcare Worker and Healthcare Facility COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements

Published on Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) are announcing today an enforcement strategy for Rhode Island's COVID-19 vaccination requirement for healthcare workers. The enforcement strategy will help safeguard patients, residents, and staff by holding health professionals and facilities accountable to the October 1 vaccination requirement, while also preventing disruptions to care in Rhode Island as healthcare facilities work toward full compliance.

"Healthcare workers have been the heroes of Rhode Island's COVID-19 pandemic by consistently putting the health and safety of their patients first. The vast majority of healthcare workers have continued to do that by already getting vaccinated against COVID-19," said Governor Dan McKee. "The enforcement strategy for our COVID-19 vaccination requirement for healthcare workers provides clear structure and guidance to facilities that are working to get the remaining few who are not vaccinated yet, while ensuring that all Rhode Islanders still have access to high quality care in facilities throughout the state."

"This enforcement strategy is not intended to be an extension or exemption of the original vaccination requirement," said Director of Health Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH. "On October 1, anyone that is non-compliant is subject to enforcement. If there is a risk to quality of care and an unvaccinated worker must continue to work beyond October 1 to mitigate that risk, the employer has 30 days to ensure that role is fulfilled by a fully vaccinated healthcare worker."

The COVID-19 vaccine is one of many vaccines that healthcare providers are required to receive. Rhode Island regulations require healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1. Similar to other vaccines, healthcare facilities will be asked to report on their COVID-19 vaccination rates for their healthcare workers. Facilities may also be required to develop COVID-19 Vaccination Corrective Action Plans to ensure full compliance if they have not met the provisions of the regulation. These plans will:

Specify the healthcare facility's plan to ensure that all remaining healthcare workers will become vaccinated against COVID-19 within 30 days. • Demonstrate that any unvaccinated staff who are still working after October 1 are doing so to mitigate a risk to quality of patient care. • Specify the temporary infection prevention measures that the facility will implement for unvaccinated staff who are critically necessary to the facility's operation. • Outline the facility's procedure to ensure that any new hires are vaccinated against COVID-19.

More information about these plans, including information on deadlines for the submission of data and COVID-19 Vaccination Corrective Action Plans, will be shared directly with healthcare leadership across Rhode Island in the coming days. Plans will be due on October 1.

"Similar to the approach that we take with other vaccinations that are required for healthcare workers, we are outlining and providing clear action steps to facilities to ensure full compliance by October 1," said Dr. Alexander-Scott. "Rhode Island's effective enforcement strategy, requiring COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers, will limit exposure to COVID-19 for vulnerable patients and will help ensure the stability of our healthcare system statewide."

Rhode Island's healthcare worker vaccination regulations apply to approximately 57,600 workers. Rhode Island currently has an overall healthcare facility vaccination rate of approximately 87%, up 10 percentage points from 77% in early September.

Rhode Island's healthcare worker vaccination regulations overlap purposefully with organizational and federal vaccination requirements. For example, hospital systems in Rhode Island have required employees to be vaccinated, and President Biden announced last week vaccination requirements for workers at organizations with more than 100 employees, federal workers, and workers at many facilities that receive funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).