PROVIDENCE — The state-run Eleanor Slater Hospital has reached crisis staffing status, and has notified employees with “mild symptoms” of the virus that causes COVID-19 that they can work.

A memo obtained by The Journal on Monday advised employees that: “We have officially notified [the Rhode Island Department of Health] that we are in such a staffing.”

Elaborating on an earlier memo from the chief medical officer, Elinor McCance-Katz, the update says: “I would like to clarify the [earlier] message to make sure that staff with mild symptoms know that they can work.”

The memo went out on New Year’s Day, at a point the Department of Health was publicly stating that no hospital in the state had declared the need to bring back infected employees.

The state agency that runs Eleanor Slater Hospital has not responded to inquiries about the nature and extent of the staffing crisis at a hospital that has struggled along with reduced staff, or the number of COVID-infected workers who have been called back in to work.

But the memo follows a Journal news report over the weekend about the new crisis staffing policy posted quietly by state health officials late last week.

Mirroring guidance from the CDC, the new policy allows hospitals and nursing homes to bring asymptomatic and “mildly symptomatic” employees back to work – without any waiting period – if they reach a point where the facilities are in a staffing crisis situation.

Eleanor Slater Hospital has close to 200 medical and psychiatric patients on two campuses in Cranston and Burrillville. And it has been on the verge of a staffing crisis for some time.

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