Over 170 health care workers have been suspended from a Houston-based hospital system for refusing to comply with the organization’s vaccine mandate.
Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom called on staffers in March to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to set an example and protect the hospital’s patients, The Washington Post reported.
While 24,947 employees met the vaccination requirement by Monday’s deadline, the 178 who did not have been suspended without pay for two weeks.
“Of these employees, 27 have received one dose of vaccine, so I am hopeful they will get their second doses soon,” Boom wrote in an internal message shared with The Post.
“I know that today may be difficult for some who are sad about losing a colleague who’s decided to not get vaccinated.”
He added, “We only wish them well and thank them for their past service to our community, and we must respect the decision they made.”
The employees have until June 21 to prove vaccination or obtain an exemption, or they will be subject to “employment termination.”
Boom said that 285 employees received a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine and 332 were granted deferrals for reasons like pregnancy.
Over 100 of the systems’ staffers, including a nurse who worked in the coronavirus unit, have filed a lawsuit against the policy.
The lawsuit brought by aggrieved workers states that it is illegal to force employees to receive a vaccine as part of a clinical trial, according to KHOU-TV.
“They need to give people choices. They can’t force things upon people that they’re not comfortable with,” registered nurse Jennifer Bridges said.
Dozens of medical workers gathered outside Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital on Monday to protest the policy.
Bridges said that she refused to comply because the vaccines have not been “fully” approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“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.”
According to KHOU, Boom said in a statement that “it is unfortunate that today’s milestone of Houston Methodist becoming the safest hospital system in the country is being overshadowed by a few disgruntled employees.”
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