The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has adopted new amendments to its Rules and Regulations for Immunization and Testing For Healthcare Workers that will make flu immunizations mandatory for all workers, students, trainees and volunteers who may have routinely anticipated face-to-face interaction, also known as “direct contact,” with patients at a health care facility.
“HEALTH listened closely to all stakeholders and used that feedback to craft amendments that addressed the concerns of health care workers and volunteers, while protecting patients from the threat of influenza,” said Michael Fine, MD, director of HEALTH, in a statement.
Health care workers and volunteers who have a medical reason for not getting a flu shot may obtain a medical exemption from their doctor, licensed physician’s assistant or licensed nurse practitioner. This exemption must be renewed annually and submitted to the employing facility by Dec. 15 each year.
Health care workers and volunteers who are opposed to having a flu shot but are not medically exempt must submit a form annually by Dec. 15 that states their refusal to be immunized against influenza and indicates their understanding that they are obligated to wear a surgical face mask during each routinely anticipated direct patient contact during any declared period in which the flu is widespread. That determination will be made by the Director of Health, and health care facilities will notify all workers that “a period in which flu is widespread” has been declared for the facility.
These regulations do not apply to patient family members or to friends who visit or otherwise assist in the care of that patient in a health care facility.