Because of recent staffing shortages inside hospitals and nursing homes, the Oklahoma State Department of Health is allowing asymptomatic staff who tested positive for COVID-19 to continue working inside these facilities. They said this is encouraged only as a last resort.
“Staffing levels in some of our health care facilities have dwindled,” said Travis Kirkpatrick, with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
The OSDH said due to COVID-19, EMS, hospitals and nursing homes across the state are seeing significant staffing shortages.
They said in order to combat this, the state is allowing asymptomatic positive staffers to continue treating patients. It's something already happening in other states.
“To really kind of research that, talk to our hospitals, we’re in daily contact with our hospitals,” said Kirkpatrick. “We started to hear this might be an actual opportunity.”
The Oklahoma Nurses Association said this could put patients at risk.
“Asymptomatic COVID positive nurses are still contagious,” said Jane Nelson, with the Oklahoma Nursing Association. “They could pass the disease, the virus onto others, so we feel this policy puts others at risk.”
“If you do this, we want to make sure it’s as narrowly scoped and only in the most emergent situations,” said Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick also said patients who have never tested positive for COVID-19 will never be treated by asymptomatic staffers.
The Nursing Association also believes there’s other avenues to help staffing issues at these facilities, including bringing nurses into Oklahoma from other regions and using nursing students. Others said close contact between other staffers is also concerning.
“We know that asymptomatic staff all use the same doors, the same ventilation systems, the same restrooms,” said Shelly Wells, with the Oklahoma Nurses Association.