Despite policies stating that LTC staff with acute respiratory illness (ARI) should stay home, a recent study found that a majority of staff still came into work while sick.
The study, conducted by Hilary M. Babcock, MD, MPH and colleagues, surveilled a 120-bed facility over a five-month span and found that 89% of staff reported coming into work with an ARI.
Because of the risk of transmission to the frail population of SNFs, it’s imperative that there are comprehensive plans in place so that ill staff can stay home, without the facility being understaffed. “This finding suggests that facilities should consider strengthening communication and enforcement of work restriction policies and should ensure that they are feasible and ensure they are feasible for all staff members,” writes Babcock.
The CDC recommends the following practices for dealing with sick staff:
- Advise all employees to stay home if they are sick until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines, or after symptoms have improved (at least 4-5 days after flu symptoms started).
- Prepare and advise employees on policies concerning caring for sick household members or children. Flexible leave policies and alternate work schedules can help prevent the spread of flu at your workplace, allow employees to continue to work or function while limiting contact with others, help maintain continuity of operations, and help people manage their health and their family’s needs.
- Prepare for employees to stay home from work and plan ways for essential business functions to continue. Employees may stay home because they are sick, need to care for sick household members, or because schools have been dismissed and they need to care for their children. Cross-train staff to perform essential functions so that the business can continue operating.