Dozens of workers in the Houston hospital system have been suspended and face dismissal for refusing to vaccinate for COVID-19, which is controversial company authorization This has sparked protests and cries from those facing the termination.
Mark Baum, CEO of Houston Methodist, said 178 workers represent less than 1% of about 25,000 employees.
“We are nearly 100% committed to our COVID-19 vaccine mandate,” Baum said in an email to employees on Tuesday. “Houston Methodist is officially the first hospital system in the country to achieve this goal for the benefit of its patients.”
Baum said that 27 of the 178 workers who were suspended have received one dose of the vaccine and that he hopes they will get the second dose. They are all suspended for two weeks and due to be released if they are not fully vaccinated.
“I wish it was zero, but unfortunately a few individuals have decided not to put their patients first,” Baum said.
Baum said an additional 285 employees have been granted medical or religious exemptions, and 332 employees have been deferred due to pregnancy and other reasons.
“I feel a little betrayed,” Amanda Rivera said. KHOU-TV When I left the building on Monday. “I worked in the emergency room. It was crazy during the pandemic. We were understaffed. The hospital was over capacity for patients. It was a lot. Now for them to come in and do this is like a slap in the face.”
Hospital workers across the country have risked their lives during the pandemic, and many have died from the virus. Until now USA TODAY survey Some of the country’s largest public hospital and hospital networks reveal that staff vaccination rates vary widely, from 51% to 91%.
Indiana University Health announced last week that it will need its 36,000 employees To get vaccinated against COVID-19 by September, describing the mandate as a “safe and effective way to protect patients” and protect the community.
“Requiring vaccinations for healthcare staff is neither new nor unprecedented,” IU Health said in a statement.
Hundreds of colleges and universities require vaccinations for the next academic year. Many nursing homes, which are hot spots early in the pandemic, require a coronavirus vaccination.
Ogbonnaya Omenka, an assistant professor and specialist in public health at Butler University in Indianapolis, said the Houston Methodist controversy “harkens for the months ahead.” He told USA TODAY that mandates that might seem an obvious choice to many people should be “implemented within a humanitarian context.”
“With businesses and schools back in operation at full capacity, they have to decide what to do about their vaccination policy,” he said. “It will not be an easy process.”
Mandatory vaccination is unpopular with Texas legislators. On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law rejecting government contracts for businesses that require customers to be vaccinated. Vaccines are also prohibited by “passports”.
“Texas is 100% open, and we want to make sure you have the freedom to go where you want with no limits,” Abbott said.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidelines saying employers have the right to require a COVID-19 vaccination, citing a “direct threat” to others in the workplace.
However, more than 100 Houston Methodist employees sued the hospital system last month, saying the vaccines are “experimental” and the mandatory vaccination policy is unfair. The lawsuit notes that the vaccines have an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration but have not yet received full approval.
“I cried all the way,” Jennifer Bridges, the nurse involved in the lawsuit, told KHOU-TV as she left the hospital on Monday.
Baum said the science, along with data on the 300 million doses already distributed in the United States alone, proves that vaccines are safe and necessary “if we’re going to turn the corner against COVID-19.” He said the number of positive cases and hospital admissions continues to decline across the country, proving the effectiveness of vaccines.
Bohm said the mandate has been challenged by the media and some outspoken employees. But he said many other major health care centers have followed in Houston Methodist’s footsteps.
“As the first hospital system to mandate COVID-19 vaccines, we were prepared for that,” he said. “Criticism is sometimes the price we pay for pioneering medicine.”