Novant Health, which is made up of 15 medical centers across North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia and has more than 2,300 physicians, terminated the employees this week. According to the company's president and CEO, Carl Armato, more than 99 percent of their overall workers got vaccinated.
Last week, around 375 employees who were found to not be in compliance were put on unpaid suspension and given an ultimatum: Get the shot within five days or lose your job. That time period has now ended. While 200 of them ultimately gave in, the remaining employees are facing termination.
Team members are only considered compliant if they have received a first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or have been granted a religious or medical exemption. Those who were given exemptions must undergo weekly testing for the virus and wear an N95 respirator mask or other appropriate type of personal protective equipment as well as eyewear protection while working on the premises of the health system. Those who have received just one dose of a two-dose vaccine series will have until October 15 to receive their second dose.
Armato said: "Without a vaccine mandate for team members, we faced the strong possibility of having a third of our staff unable to work due to contracting, or exposure to, COVID-19. This possibility only increases heading into a fall season with the more contagious and deadly Delta variant."
In the meantime, the health system has hired more than 150 new workers in the last week. A company representative said: "Like healthcare systems across the country, we are being impacted by a national nursing shortage, which existed prior to the pandemic and has been further exacerbated by the pandemic.”
One nurse who has worked with the company for more than 15 years, Laura Rushing, told WSOC-TV in Charlotte that she knew as soon as the vaccine mandate was instituted that she would not give in, and then her religious exemption request was denied.
“Who decided my religious exemption, the wording used, was not good enough? It wasn’t as good as someone else’s? That just feels like discrimination and I didn’t appreciate it,” she told the outlet.
Meanwhile, hundreds of healthcare workers in New York have been suspended and are facing losing their jobs as a COVID-19 mandate in the state goes into effect. The New York State Department of Health issued the order last month, which required every health care worker in the state to get the vaccine by September 27.
According to Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, 92 percent of hospital and nursing home staff and 89 percent of adult care facility staff in the state have received at least one dose. She added that rates have climbed significantly in the past four weeks as the deadline approached.
"This new information shows that holding firm on the vaccine mandate for health care workers is simply the right thing to do to protect our vulnerable family members and loved ones from COVID-19," she stated.
Unfortunately, these short-sighted mandates that are being seen around the country could leave people in need without enough healthcare professionals available to take care of them. One can only imagine how healthcare employees who are being terminated right now feel after showing up day after day during the pandemic and working under highly stressful conditions to help save people’s lives only to be forced out of their jobs for not risking their own lives.
Sources for this article include: