California healthcare workers win fight to stay home with asymptomatic COVID-19

A Prime Healthcare spokesperson said under previous policy, workers were asked, but never required, to return to work if they were symptom-free. Five of the approximately 2,000 hospital staff have been asked to return to work without being subject to quarantine or periods of isolation, a spokesman said.

In an emailed statement, a Prime Healthcare spokesperson said St. Francis Medical Center “continues to follow all CDPH and CDC guidelines.”

“With immediate effect, healthcare workers who test positive for COVID and are asymptomatic must follow quarantine protocols before returning to work. Workers with a positive test result and symptoms should remain in quarantine and not return to work,” the statement said. “St. Francis continues to put in place all safety standards and measures to mitigate staff shortages, including on-site testing and contact tracing, as we continue to care for patients during this surge.”

A Prime Healthcare spokesperson did not say if there would be similar policy changes for other hospitals within the system.

SEIU-UHW workers at St. Francis Medical Center on Wednesday held a protest outside the hospital demanding that they not return to work after testing positive for COVID-19 or being exposed to the virus without periods of testing or isolation.

“With the protests of SEIU-UHW members and holding Prime Healthcare accountable for the safety of workers and patients, and the support of U.S. Representative Nanette Barragan, St. Francis Medical Center announced that it will no longer pressure carers who test positive for COVID to make them work,” said Rene. Saldanha, SEIU-UHW spokesperson.

A spokesman for Prime Healthcare said the hospital and the union had reached an agreement to change policy prior to the protest.

Healthcare workers across the country have challenged new CDC guidelines that allow asymptomatic health care workers to return to work after five days of quarantine or isolation, saying they put patients and healthcare workers at risk.

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