Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C.

On August 17, 2021, the Rhode Island Department of Health (“RIDOH”) issued regulations requiring that all Rhode Island health care workers and heath care providers be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1, 2021.[1]  On October 1, 2021, health care facilities (as broadly defined below) must deny entrance to any health care workers who are not vaccinated, subject to medical exemptions.

Application to Health Care Facilities, Health Care Workers, and Health Care Providers

The regulation applies to health care facilities, which is broadly defined to include any institutional health-service provider, facility, or institution, place, building, agency or portion thereof, whether a partnership or corporation, whether public or private, whether organized for profit or not, used, operated, or engaged in providing health care services.  Health care facilities include, for example, hospitals, nursing facilities, home nursing-care providers, home care providers, rehabilitation centers, kidney disease treatment centers, and other organized ambulatory care facilities.[2]  For purposes of this regulation, health care facilities also include assisted living residences, adult daycare programs, and clinical laboratories.

Health care worker is also broadly defined to include any person who is temporarily or permanently employed by or at, or who serves as a volunteer in, or has an employment contract, with a health care facility and has or may have direct contact with a patient in that facility.  This definition expressly includes individuals such as clerical, administrative, billing, and maintenance, who may not be directly involved in patient care, but potentially exposed, in the course of employment, to infectious agents.  Health care provider is defined as anyone licensed by RIDOH to provide health care services.

Vaccination and Masking Requirements

By October 1, 2021, all health care workers and health care providers must be vaccinated, subject to a medical exemption.  Beginning on October 1, 2021, health care facilities must deny entrance to any health care worker who is not vaccinated, subject to a medical exemption.

Until October 1, 2021, all health care workers in health care facilities and health care providers who are not vaccinated must:

  • Wear a procedure or higher-grade mask (e.g., KN95 or N95) in the course of their employment while inside a health care facility.
  • Be tested at least two (2) times per week for COVID-19 via any COVID-19 test authorized by the FDA.

Each health care facility must provide an adequate supply of procedure or higher-grade masks to any health care worker at no cost.

All health care providers who are not working at a health care facility who are not vaccinated must wear a procedure or higher-grade mask (e.g. KN95 or N95) in the course of their employment.

Proof of vaccination must be entered into the Rhode Island Child and Adult Immunization Registry:

Health care facilities have seven days from the issuance of the regulation (August 24, 2021) to implement measures necessary to ensure compliance with health care worker testing requirements.

Medical Exemptions

Health care workers/providers can be medically exempt from being required to be vaccinated provided that a licensed physician, physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse signs a medical exemption stating that the health care worker/health care provider is exempt from the COVID-19 vaccine because of medical reasons, in accordance with Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) guidelines and determined as acceptable by the facility.

Health care workers with medical exemptions must wear procedure or higher-grade mask at work and are required to be tested at least two times per week. Health care providers who are not otherwise categorized as health care workers with medical exemptions wear procedure or higher-grade mask at work.

The medical exemption reason must be in accordance with Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) guidelines and determined as acceptable by the facility.

There is no religious exception included in the regulation.

Violations

Heath care facilities and providers that violate any provision of the regulation are subject to administrative action by the RIDOH and any other action provided under law, including but not limited to actions against the professional and/or facility license and fines.

[1]           See 216-RICR-20-15-8

[2]           See id.; see also R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-17-2.

 
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