The health care system is using the latest science to set standards for return to work protocols for care team members who contract COVID-19.
Portland, Maine – MaineHealth said today that it is altering slightly its policy with respect to how care team members return to work after a case of COVID-19, dropping a requirement for a negative antigen test following a completed quarantine period. The change does not conflict with existing CDC guidance for returning health care team members to the workplace after contracting COVID-19.
Under contingency staffing criteria, the US. CDC allows care team members to return after five days of symptom onset as long as they feel well, are improving, and are fever-free for 24 hours without the assistance of fever-reducing medications. Throughout the pandemic, MaineHealth has followed U.S. CDC guidance and at times maintained even stricter standards than required. Most important, care team members only return when they report feeling well enough to return.
Another of those stricter standards was to require a negative antigen test upon return in addition to the CDC criteria. However, with antigen tests in short supply and science that says the tests are not intended to screen for transmissibility, MaineHealth has decided to end the practice.
“We put the testing requirement in place as a way of providing additional assurance, but the reality is that the antigen test has not proven reliable in determining infectivity. These tests are great for diagnosing COVID-19, and that’s what they should be used for given the limited supply. That’s why testing is not required by the US CDC in this setting” said Doug Sawyer, MD, interim chief medical officer at MaineHealth.
In addition to the CDC quarantine requirements, MaineHealth continues to employ a range of other precautions to assure that patients and care team members have the safest possible environment at its clinics and hospitals. These include a requirement that all care team members be fully vaccinated, universal masking for patients and staff, additional personal protective equipment in clinical settings and a daily health screen for all care team members that includes a requirement that they stay home when sick.
“Our hospitals and clinics remain among the safest possible environments when it comes to the risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Sawyer. “Consistent with our vision of ‘Working together so our communities are the healthiest in America,’ we are doing all we can to assure that we deliver safe, effective, and timely care."
MaineHealth is a not-for-profit integrated health system whose vision is, “Working together so our communities are the healthiest in America.” It consists of nine local hospital systems, a comprehensive behavioral healthcare network, diagnostic services, home health agencies, and more than 1,500 employed and independent physicians working together through the MaineHealth Medical Group. With approximately 22,000 employees, MaineHealth provides preventive care, diagnosis and treatment to 1.1 million residents in Maine and New Hampshire. It includes Franklin Memorial Hospital/Franklin Community Health Network in Farmington, LincolnHealth in Damariscotta and Boothbay Harbor, Maine Behavioral Healthcare in South Portland, MaineHealth Care at Home in Saco, Maine Medical Center in Portland, Memorial Hospital in North Conway, N.H., Mid Coast-Parkview Health in Brunswick, NorDx in Scarborough, Pen Bay Medical Center and Waldo County General Hospital in Rockport and Belfast, Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford and Sanford, Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook and Stephens Memorial Hospital/Western Maine Health Care in Norway. MaineHealth Affiliates include Maine General Health in Augusta and Waterville, New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Portland and St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. It is also a significant stakeholder in the MaineHealth Accountable Care Organization in Portland.