Thursday, 17 Jun 2021

Hospital suspends 178 staff for failing to get Covid vaccine

More than 170 staff at a group of hospitals in Houston, Texas have been suspended for refusing to get a vaccine after being asked to by company bosses.

Houston Methodist, which runs almost 300 healthcare sites in the city, has said 178 of its staff have been banned from coming into work without pay after failing to comply with its compulsory vaccine mandate.

While 24,947 of its employees have been fully vaccinated against Covid, those who have not face being sacked if they still haven’t gotten both jabs by June 21.

Company CEO Marc Boom set an initial deadline of June 7 for all staff, except for those who are exempt, to get vaccinated and said that the organization needs to set an example and protect patients.

In an internal memo to staff, Boom said: ‘Of these employees, 27 have received one dose of vaccine, so I am hopeful they will get their second doses soon’, reports The Washington Post.

‘I know that today may be difficult for some who are sad about losing a colleague who’s decided to not get vaccinated.

‘We only wish them well and thank them for their past service to our community, and we must respect the decision they made.’

The treatment of the 178 un-vaccinated individuals comes as 285 employees received a medical or religious exemption from getting the vaccine by the company, while a further 332 employees were granted deferrals for pregnancy or other reasons, Boom said.

The fallout comes after the hospital system, in March, ordered all members of staff to get both jobs within the following three months.

The policy has since resulted in protests outside one of the healthcare provider’s hospitals in Houston and has led to a lawsuit being filed by more than 100 of the system’s staffers.

At the protest on Monday, people held signs saying things like ‘Vaxx is Venom’ and ‘Don’t Lose Sight of Our Rights’.

Some of the employees have said the vaccine mandate is an infringement on their rights.

Speaking to the Texan, Jennifer Bridges, a nurse who has worked for Houston Methodist for more than six years, said: ‘No one should be forced to put something into their body if they’re not comfortable with it.’

Gale Smith, a Houston Methodist spokesperson, added: ‘We fully support the right of our employees to peacefully gather on their own time.’

Bridges said she had refused to comply because she’s concerned that the vaccines have not been ‘fully’ approved by the Food and Drug Administration – a process that tends to take two years and involves clinical trials – despite the jabs having received official authorization for emergency use.

‘I’m not anti-vaccine. I’ve had every vaccine known to man, except this one’, Bridges told The Post in May.

‘As nurses and medical staff, everybody feels like you should have a right to choose what you put in your body.’

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said the government does not have a vaccination mandate, it did say that ‘for some healthcare workers or essential employees, a state or local government or employer, for example, may require or mandate that workers be vaccinated as a matter of state or other law’.

Bridges and 116 of her colleagues sued the hospital system last month after the vaccination mandate became a condition of employment.

‘We will fight this all the way to the Supreme Court’, Bridges told the Texan.

‘This is wrongful termination and a violation of our rights.’

According to the CDC, more than 285 million doses of vaccines were administered in the US between December 14 last year and May 24.

Vaccination hesitancy remains high in Texas and in many other areas across the nation.

Less than 500,000 adults now being vaccinated each day in America, down from a peak of 3.4 million in April, putting under threat Joe Biden’s promise to have 70% of all adults vaccinated by July 4.

So far in America 62% of over 18s have had at least one jab while 42% have had both jabs.

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