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Department of Health orders further COVID-19 protections for hospital staff

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The Pennsylvania Department of Health today issued an order requiring that all hospitals take additional steps to further protect their staff and patients from COVID-19. The order requires all hospitals to develop, implement and adhere to safety measures by Monday, June 15.

The order addresses several concerns raised by nurses and other front-line workers. It requires hospitals to develop, implement and adhere to the following policies and procedures that provide for the safety of the hospital staff and patients by:
 
• Notifying hospital staff members who have been in close-contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case within 24 hours of the known contact and provide instruction for quarantine and work exclusion.
 
• Testing symptomatic and asymptomatic hospital staff members who have received notice of a close contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case upon request.
 
• Procuring and distributing nationally approved respirators to the hospital staff member when the staff member determines the mask is soiled, damaged or otherwise ineffective.
 
• Requiring universal masking for all individuals entering the hospital facility except for people for whom wearing a mask would create a further health risk or individuals under age 2.

These safety policies and procedures must be developed in consultation with the medical and nursing staffs, including front-line professional and auxiliary nursing staff members, including bed-side nurses, and must be implemented by June 15. In addition to medical and nursing staff, hospital staff members include therapeutic services, social services, housekeeping services, dietary services, and maintenance.

If a patient, family member or staff member at a facility is concerned about the safety at a facility, an anonymous complaint can be filed with the department. All complaints filed are confidential and the department will protect the anonymity of those who report concerns. Any hospital staff who report concerns about worker safety should not be retaliated against.

The department investigates every complaint received. If there is a complaint about a healthcare facility, including a nursing home, contact1-800-254-5164 or fill out an online form at https://apps.health.pa.gov/dohforms/FacilityComplaint.aspx.

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