Health Care

New UVM Health Network policy: Employees with Covid can have extra time off after using up all vacation, sick time

The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington on Monday, November 23, 2020. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The largest health system in Vermont is asking workers to use vacation and sick days following Covid-19 exposure, a University of Vermont Health Network spokesperson said. 

The policy, slated to go into effect Feb. 1, would grant health care workers supplemental Covid-19 leave only after they exhausted their other paid time off. Currently, employees can use a two-week supplemental Covid-19 leave before they dip into their other paid time off. 

“While the UVM Health Network understands that this is a change, as we enter the third year of the pandemic with a realization that COVID-19 will become endemic, UVMHN needed a policy that could be sustainable and offered for the long term,” UVM Health Network spokesperson Annie Mackin wrote in an email. 

Omicron exposure has sidelined hundreds of network employees, particularly at UVM Medical Center in Burlington. Leaders at the 600-plus-bed hospital adopted emergency staffing procedures late last week when more than 400 employees were absent from work. More than 300 employees were absent from work Monday, and the vast majority had Covid-19, Mackin said. 

Emergency staffing procedures are an extraordinary — and typically temporary — measure hospitals can employ to remain sufficiently staffed to remain open. If staffing levels remain inadequate, hospitals may have to turn patients away and refuse transfers.

The state reported a record-setting 116 Covid-19 patients on Tuesday, part of a rising Omicron surge. 

The UVM Health Network began offering paid Covid-19 sick leave in 2020 after a federal policy required employees with 50 to 500 workers to do so. The federal government amended its policy in June, telling employers they could require workers to use up their time off before getting paid Covid-19 leave. 

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Liora Engel-Smith

About Liora

Liora Engel-Smith covers health care for VTDigger. She previously covered rural health at NC Health News in North Carolina and the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire. She also had been at the Muscatine Journal in rural Iowa. Engel-Smith has master's degrees in public health from Drexel University and journalism from Temple University. Before moving to journalism, she was a scientist who briefly worked in the pharmaceutical industry.

Email: [email protected]

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