California hospital allows quarantine flexibility for COVID-positive employees returning to work

After union pushback, St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Calif., will allow greater quarantine flexibility for healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 while asymptomatic.

California temporarily revised its guidelines to allow healthcare workers who test positive but are asymptomatic to return to work immediately without isolation or testing. The revised guidelines, which have been condemned by unions, are effective through Feb. 1 because of "critical staffing shortages currently being experienced across the healthcare continuum because of the rise in the omicron variant," according to the state health department.  

St. Francis, which is operated by Ontario, Calif.-based Prime Healthcare, said it continues to follow state and federal guidelines, and the current patient care and staffing needs allow workers to quarantine before returning to work through the expiration of the state guidelines. 

"Through the expiration of [the guidelines] and given the current patient care and staffing needs at St. Francis, healthcare staff will be given the opportunity to quarantine before returning to work," according to a statement shared with Becker's

The hospital added that this does not represent a policy reversal but instead an assessment of current patient and staffing needs.

St. Francis made the decision after the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West held a rally Jan. 26 at St. Francis to express concerns about the state guidelines and their potential effects on worker and patient safety.

In a statement shared with Becker's, the union said members are pleased that St. Francis is allowing more flexibility for COVID-19-positive workers to quarantine before coming to work.

The United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West have all pushed back against the state's return-to-work guidelines.

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