JASON RANTZ

Rantz: MultiCare hospitals order symptomatic COVID-positive staff to see patients

Jan 12, 2022, 5:56 PM | Updated: Jan 13, 2022, 11:52 am
MultiCare hospitals...
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

MultiCare Health Systems is ordering symptomatic, COVID-positive staff to work at its area hospitals, the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH has learned. Officials with the organization initially refused to comment.

According to an internal memo dated Jan. 6, MultiCare hospitals have moved into “crisis levels of staffing.” The impetus for the move was the rise in hospital visits, though not all due to COVID.

Consequently, the hospitals modified their return-to-work process, ordering staff “to work even if they are experiencing mild symptoms but are improving.” But a MultiCare staffer claimed that unless a staffer has a fever, “they want us coming in.” COVID-positive staffers are not required to disclose their status to patients or coworkers.

Washington medical association urges Inslee to aid hospitals operating at ‘crisis capacity’

Hospital staff told to work while sick

At a Jan. 6 press conference, MultiCare’s Chief Quality, Safety, and Nursing Officer, June Altaras, addressed reporters on the state’s hospital staffing crisis.

She described a quicker turnaround time for COVID-positive staffers to return to work, “so that we can appropriately bring back employees a bit sooner so we can continue to deliver the standard of care we expect for all of our patients.”

But MultiCare announced that same day, in an internal all-staff memo obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, that the hospital was bringing back staff who are both COVID-positive and experiencing symptoms.

“Under these guidelines, some staff may return to work even if they are experiencing mild symptoms but are improving,” Altaras and David Carlson, DO, SVP & Chief Physician Officer, wrote.

There are eight MultiCare hospitals in the Puget Sound region, with locations in Tacoma, Olympia, Covington, Auburn, Puyallup, and Seattle.

Who comes back to work?

A chart attached to the memo, titled, “Management of COVID-exposed and COVID-positive staff during crisis staffing level,” explained who would come back to the hospitals and under what circumstances.

Staff who test positive for COVID, regardless of vaccination status, may return to work. They’re allowed to treat patients.

Eastern Washington hospitals say no big losses in staffing post-vaccine mandate

According to the chart, “Positive staff with mild to moderate illness” may work so long as they wear appropriate PPE, do not take breaks with others, and agree to stay home “if symptoms worsen.” The acceptable PPE is N95 masks.

The chart explains:

IF working with patients:
Do NOT assign to care for immunocompromised.

-Prioritize patient assignments in this order as possible:
1) COVID positive /COVID rule out patients
2) vaccinated patients
3) all other patients.

Managers may choose to make other exceptions based on patient risk and staff availability.

If a staff member’s symptoms “develop,” they are to be sent home. If that doesn’t happen, managers must “monitor that staff wear appropriate PPE/source control.”

“If possible, assign to non-clinical role,” managers are told.

Rantz: WA laws now allow teen gender reassignment surgery without parental consent

Hospital spokesperson refuses to comment, staff express concern

The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH reached out to MultiCare for comment five times. Roughly nine hours later, spokesperson Holly Harvey emailed to explain she would not submit a comment by the 5:30 p.m. deadline.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) permit health care workers who are COVID-positive to work without restrictions if they are in a staffing crisis. However, the following criteria must be met for a staff member to return to work while COVID-positive: at least five days have passed since symptoms first appeared; the health care worker has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the assistance of a fever-reducing medication; and their symptoms have improved.

But MultiCare will not provide specific data on the current bed usage at its hospitals to explain why staffing is considered at crisis levels. They also would not confirm how many health care staff were fired due to Governor Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate, which was implemented to stop the spread of COVID from staffer to staffer and from staff to patient.

Some MultiCare staffers are concerned they are exposing patients to COVID. According to multiple studies, the omicron variant is mild but spreads very easily. And according to the MultiCare memo, fitted N95 masks are not always required to be worn.

A source who works for MultiCare, who asked to remain anonymous, tells KTTH sister-station KIRO Radio that employees are upset.

“You could be dizzy, coughing, whatever. Any other symptom aside from a fever, they want us coming in,” the source said.

Update 1/12/22 at 9:57 p.m.: MultiCare responds

Lori Meyers, director of external communications, responded to questions Wednesday evening.

Meyers confirmed that while COVID-positive employees are able to work, “we have implemented rigorous protocols to enable us to treat all patients safely.” But she also noted that hospital staff are not required to disclose to patients if they have COVID, and that they do not test staffers unless they are symptomatic.

“The numbers of patients we are seeing in our hospitals right now is higher than any other time during the pandemic,” Meyers said. “This coupled with the fact that Omicron is highly contagious has impacted health care on all levels. As with many other industries, health care is experiencing significant staffing shortages and MultiCare is not immune.”

Meyers did not confirm how many staff members were fired due to the COVID vaccine mandate.

Update 1/13/22 at 11:51 a.m.: MultiCare releases more details

Meyers indicated that five hospitals have reached 100% capacity, though did not yet have details on how many COVID-positive patients are occupying beds due to treatment of the virus, versus patients who happened to have COVID but were not in the hospital for that reason.

The impacted hospitals are Allenmore, Auburn Medical Center, Good Samaritan, Tacoma General, and Deaconess (Inland NW).

But a crucial point is that she confirms 202 patients are in beds when they do not need to be. There are “barriers to release,” she says, which include staffing shortages at nursing facilities.

Thanks to vaccine mandates and competing, higher-paying jobs, nurses have left facilities around the state. MultiCare confirms they released 55 staff over the vaccine mandate.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

King County jail, staffing...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: King County fired the unvaccinated, now pays $103 an hour to fix staffing crisis

The staffing situation at King County jails is so dire that some correction officers are now being paid over $100 an hour for overtime.
4 days ago
car prowl...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Man allegedly car prowls for an hour in broad daylight, as police couldn’t respond

A man was caught on video as he appears to car prowl in Tacoma. Police officers were nowhere to be seen, but even if they were, he couldn't be detained.
5 days ago
MLK Day assembly...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: Seattle-area school uses MLK Jr. Day to bash police and USA

A local school used a Martin Luther King Day assembly to amplify virulently anti-police and anti-American messages. Is this what the holiday is meant for?
6 days ago
Olympia, state House...
KTTH staff

New state Senator Simon Sefzik views his young age ‘as an asset’

The 42nd Legislative District has a new state senator: 22-year-old Simon Sefzik. He tells the Jason Rantz Show he's excited to learn and get to work.
6 days ago
seattle police, traffic stops...
Jason Rantz

Rantz: New equity policy bars Seattle Police from some traffic stops, opens door to more car theft

Seattle Police are now barred from many non-criminal traffic stops after activists claimed concerns over equity.
9 days ago
Sheriff Fortney...
KTTH staff

Snohomish County Sheriff Fortney will run for re-election after failed recall effort

After a failed recall effort against him last year, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney says he will run for office again in 2023.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Rantz: MultiCare hospitals order symptomatic COVID-positive staff to see patients