Strained Wisconsin hospitals asking staff to return to work during quarantine

Many hospitals in Wisconsin are having workers who were exposed to COVID-19 return to their jobs during their quarantine period due to staffing shortages, said Wisconsin Department of Health Services CMO Ryan Westergaard, MD, PhD, during a Dec. 1 media briefing.

Dr. Westergaard said the move indicates that hospitals are operating under crisis standards, which are practices that would not necessarily be considered ideal or safe outside of a crisis.

"I would say the area which most hospitals have moved into doing in that regard, that we would consider a crisis standard, is the idea of having healthcare providers who have been exposed … come back to work during their quarantine period," he told reporters. "That's something, under normal circumstances, we wouldn't do. In the setting of a staffing crisis, where hospital leadership feels it's more dangerous for patients to keep people home than to have healthcare workers come back to the workplace."

According to Dr. Westergaard, his department has provided guidance to hospitals on how to bring workers back during quarantine more safely. This guidance includes aggressive symptom monitoring, enhanced personal protective equipment and regimented serial testing, meaning workers are tested every three days.

The CMO's remarks come more than a week after the Wisconsin Hospital Association told Becker's 53 hospitals, or 40 percent of hospitals in the state, reported critical staffing shortages as of Nov. 20. 

Wisconsin reported more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases Dec. 1. 


More articles on workforce:
Many facilities did not report healthcare worker deaths during pandemic, KHN analysis shows
California calls for weekly testing of all hospital workers
Health systems launch efforts to assure healthcare workers about COVID-19 vaccination



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