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PROVIDENCE — Patients and staff in the forensic unit at the Eleanor Slater state hospital in Cranston have been placed on quarantine after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
David Levesque, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said that five state employees, including the person who tested positive, and 25 patients have been quarantined “out of an abundance of caution.”
He said the patients, who are all psychiatric patients at the hospital under court-order, range in age from their 20s to their 50s.
“Immediately upon learning of the positive test result on Tuesday,’’ Levesque said, “the hospital coordinated with the Department of Health and implemented DOH’s prescribed guidelines, in addition to other precautionary steps that the hospital deemed appropriate.”
He noted the hospital has had a no-visitor policy since March 12.
Employees learned of the situation via an mail from Erin Scanlon, who is identified on the state’s transparency portal as the “supervising infection control nurse’’ at the hospital.
In her email, Scanlon said: “I have been contacted by the RI Department of Health. A Benton A staff member has tested positive for Covid-19. Benton A is quarantined.”
In the email, she said staff would be “supplied with one surgical mask per shift” from this point on, and expected to increase “hand hygiene of all patients and staff” and “monitoring of patients and staff for illness.”
The email also said: “All health care workers” will be screened at the beginning of each shift, and direct care workers will “continue” to have their temperatures taken.
“I am waiting for further instructions from RI DOH,’’ she said.
A number of upset hospital residents and staff contacted The Journal, to say staff had previously been discouraged from wearing masks or self-quarantining after traveling or contact with a suspected COVID-19 case.
Kathy McElroy, president of one of the unions that represents workers at the hospital — Local 580, SEIU — said she was not notified directly.
“I have been trying to get the Hospital administration to allow team meetings and morning huddle(s) to be done telephonically,’’ McElroy said. “I want my workers (any workers!) to be able to phone in from their offices to those meetings rather than cram more than ten people into a small area to discuss in person.
“They are not social distancing as both the Governor and the Director requested,’’ said McElroy, who represents the clinical social workers and psychologists at the state hospital.
“I have been told that a meeting protocol is coming out but have not seen it yet,’’ she said.
Megan Clingham, the state’s mental health advocate, said she was not notified directly either.
“I want to make sure that for the protection of the patients and staff that the hospital is sufficiently supplied with essential items such as disinfectant, paper towels, soap and hand sanitizer, as well as personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns and gloves,” she said.
On Twitter: @kathyprojo