Health Care Providers Employment FAQ
By Dinsmore's Melissa Fann
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers are faced with unique issues, as facilities’ staffing levels must be maintained. Workers providing direct patient care are not able to telecommute. Hospitals must prepare for existing patient volume and a potential surge of patients as a result of COVID-19.
The guidance below is based on the current state and federal recommendations. This is an extremely fluid situation, and state, local, and federal guidance is evolving rapidly.
What are the workplace safety considerations with respect to personal protective equipment for health care employees?
Employers must provide their employees with a safe workplace environment. COVID-19 presents unique challenges to health care workers, as many may be at risk for exposure. As the incidence of COVID-19 continues to rise, hospitals and other providers may find themselves in a position where they have inadequate supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued updated guidance related to the use and preservation of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals should continually assess their supply and utilization of PPE. The CDC guidance encourages hospitals to use alternative strategies to preserve PPE when the facility is experiencing an immediate or anticipated shortage of PPE. In anticipation of a shortage, for example, the CDC recommends prioritizing the use of gowns for surgical and other sterile procedures along with the delay of elective and non-urgent outpatient visits and admissions.
Hospitals and other employers are able to take an employee’s temperature and assess travel history to evaluate his or her fitness to perform job duties in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these measures must not be conducted in a discriminatory manner based on local, state, or federally protected classes (including national origin).
States and the CDC are continually updating guidance as the demand for PPE increases. The CDC has also published guidance to address return-to- work criteria for health care providers who have had confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.
What are the health care employee training considerations with respect to PPE?
Hospitals are obligated to provide employees with proper training in order to reduce their risk of injury in the workplace. This includes proper use of PPE that is available at each employee’s work site. All employees who are likely to come into contact with patients with COVID-19 or patient belongings should be trained on proper donning and doffing procedures including hand-washing. As changes to the supply of available PPE occurs, employees should be provided with updated training. The updated CDC guidance suggests that expired PPE can be utilized for training purposes only in anticipation of a shortage in order to conserve supplies.
What should health care employees know about internal and external disaster plans?
As hospitals must continually staff facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that all employees are receiving updated information regarding the hospital’s internal and external disaster plans.
Managers should ensure that all employee contact information and emergency contact information is up to date. Hospitals should encourage employees to have a personal emergency plan to provide for the care of children, pets, and elderly family members in the event they are not able to leave work.
How can childcare concerns be addressed with health care employees?
Employers should not permit employees to bring children with them to work. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has adopted an emergency rule providing for pandemic childcare centers to offer care for children of health care providers. Interested employers are able to complete a licensing application. In the interim, employers should encourage employees to maintain a back-up childcare plan.
Do stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders apply to health care workers?
In general, the travel restrictions imposed during a shelter-in-place order do not apply to health care workers as their work is considered to be critical. In Ohio, for example, workers who are engaged in providing health care services are exempted from the stay-at-home order restricting travel, effective Monday, March 23rd at 11:59 p.m.