Virtua hospital in clash with staff over request to work with COVID-19

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli says complaint by union is under investigation

Hospital administrators and doctors fear that staff shortages could have an impact on treatment and care in New Jersey’s second wave of the coronavirus. Doctors fear a dangerous repeat from the first wave as a new report from Rutgers University finds health care workers, especially nurses, have a higher prevalence of COVID-19 than non-health care workers.

At one New Jersey hospital, staff report being called into work even though they have been infected with or exposed to the virus — if they are asymptomatic and have not had a fever in 48 hours. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contingency guidelines do allow COVID-positive, but asymptomatic health care professionals to work in COVID units during severe staffing shortages.) Senior Correspondent Brenda Flanagan reports.

Editor’s note: Virtua Health responded to NJ Spotlight News’ request for comment on staffing practices after the deadline for broadcast.

“Virtua Health will work with HPAE to review its concerns,” Dr. Reg Blaber, executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Virtua Health, said in a statement. “Colleagues who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic are not being asked to work, but rather to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days.”