I am an employee at Rhode Island Hospital. I see patients every day I work. For many shifts, I don’t stop moving. It is a constant whirlwind of traumas, ER patients, intensive care units and more. For years management, at the only level 1 trauma hospital we have, has refused to fill call outs and vacations. This meant when someone calls in sick, and you need to be seen, there are not enough people to take care of you. This results in longer wait times, less time for staff to interact with you, and an increase in errors and complications.
Now, upper management at Lifespan, the parent company of Rhode Island Hospital, has outdone even itself. Recently, the staff at Lifespan have found out we will have new sick and call out policies enacted unilaterally, starting on January 1. The only reason we have even seen the policy is that our unions here at Rhode Island Hospital showed us. We were waiting for the hospital to tell us what they are implementing and were told that the policy will be posted after it has been implemented.
What do we know about these policies? From what we can gather, from an unsigned HR document to our unions, it isn’t good for staff and consequently the public who use our services. Every time a person calls out sick (except the first time, when you are granted 2-5 days) it will count as an occurrence. For a full-time employee, if you receive 11 total occurrences, you are fired. Fallen ill at work while dealing with sick people and need to go home? That counts as an occurrence. You get sick on the weekend? That is actually counted as two occurrences. Call out both days on that weekend and that is four occurrences. Have children? Hopefully, they never get ill and need mom or dad to call out. A typical part-time employee who works 24 hours a week, usually every other weekend, is allowed a total of eight occurrences before they are fired. Thus, after just two unfortunate weekends of illness, they can be terminated.
It is common for sickness to spread like the plague in our work. Every year, even when we get the flu shot, we get a variety of ailments like clockwork. There are 1 or 2 stomach bugs which cause uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea. There is an odd upper respiratory infection we all get which causes us to lose our voices at least once per year. There are normal flu-like illnesses which happen at least 2 times per year. Strep throat is yearly. These all require time out from work so we don’t come into work and infect everyone else. This makes logical sense from an infection control standpoint: You don’t want sick people working at your hospital making sick patients even sicker.
The effect of this new policy is to force employees at the hospital to choose:. Do I come to work with a possible infectious disease and risk infecting others? Or do I stay home and risk getting fired? What kind of choice is that?! The least amount of time from the list above is far over the 11 total occurrences allowed. We can’t in good faith come to work sick, which means most of us will be fired. Many of us carry decades of experience helping the sick, to lose that type of knowledge on a massive scale would be detrimental to patient care and to the public.
What kind of choice is that?
We can not, in good faith, come to work sick, which means most of us will be fired. Many of us carry decades of experience helping the sick. To lose institutional knowledge on a such a massive scale would be detrimental to patient care and to the public.
Lifespan advertises on the airways that we deliver health with care. I’d like to think that care doesn’t come with a side of influenza, strep throat, or worse. The new policy reaches far beyond the realm of normal employee/employer disagreements. The new policy endangers our patients by either subjecting them to sick employees or short staffing.
I can’t believe that people who run a hospital actually put this thing together.
The public has a right to have healthy people caring for them. The public has a right to proper staffing levels. The public has a right to a hospital functioning at its best. This is especially true when most of that hospital’s funding comes from tax money. We are supposed to heal the sick at hospitals: How can we say we heal the sick when we don’t allow our staff the chance to heal themselves? What type of message does this send?
The two unions at Rhode Island Hospital have called for an informational picket. The time and place are Wednesday, January 11th 2-4pm on Eddy St.