WAMC News has obtained an internal memo from Berkshire Health Systems that indicates the company will no longer require staffers to be furloughed after exposure to patients with COVID-19.
The memo was released to BHS staffers by Vice President of Human Resources Patrick Borek Tuesday.
The new procedures say that “with the virus so prevalent in the community, and with all employees masking at all times, there is no longer a need for a furlough after exposure to a COVID patient.”
It says that BHS will continue to conduct screenings, but “If the screener determines that you have potentially been exposed, you should continue to mask, check your temperature and symptoms daily, and continue to work.” The memo calls for staff to stay home if they have a fever over 100 degrees, symptoms including “cough, chest congestion, shortness of breath, or tight sensation in your chest” or “any other serious illness.”
Staff are directed to come to work with symptoms such as “runny nose, nasal congestion, common cold or seasonal allergy symptoms” despite suspicions of exposure.
BHS told WAMC that the move is in line with other hospitals and is in accordance with the latest guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association says that around 100 nurses at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield – which is operated by BHS – have been furloughed and instructed to self-quarantine after potential exposure to the virus.
You can read the full memo here:
As expected, we are seeing sustained community transmission of the coronavirus in Western Massachusetts. Therefore, like other hospitals and health systems across the Commonwealth in accordance with Massachusetts Department of Public Health guidelines, we are adjusting our procedures for this new stage in our response to the pandemic.
- Staff Exposed to the Virus in Patient Interactions
With the virus so prevalent in the community, and with all employees masking at all times, there is no longer a need for a furlough after exposure to a COVID patient. We will continue to conduct screenings to identify potential exposures and find opportunities to improve process. If the screener determines that you have potentially been exposed, you should continue to mask, check your temperature and symptoms daily, and continue to work.
- If You Become Sick
Regardless of the source of your symptoms, this simple statement continues to apply: If you’re sick, stay home. More specifically:
- Stay Home and Call Occupational Health at 447-2684 if You Have:
- Fever greater than 100 degrees and / or lower respiratory symptoms (cough, chest congestion, shortness of breath, tight sensation in your chest)
- Any other serious illness that would have kept you out of work before the current situation
- Come to Work if You:
- Have upper respiratory symptoms (runny nose, nasal congestion, common cold or seasonal allergy symptoms)
- Suspect you might have been exposed to coronavirus or some other illness either at work or in the community, but do not have fever or lower respiratory symptoms
As before, all absences due to illness will be handled according to normal policy (you will have access to your Earned Time, and Long-Term Illness Bank if your illness exceeds two days).
Thank you for all your efforts and your continued dedication to the health of our community as we face this crisis. If you have questions, please feel free to contact your manager, your HR Business Partner, or me at any time.
Patrick M. Borek
Vice President, Human Resources
Berkshire Health Systems