As Vaccine Mandates Bite, Few U.S. Health Workers Risk Firing
With deadlines for health care workers to take coronavirus vaccinations either passed or quickly approaching, only a fraction of those workers across the United States are risking their jobs by not complying.
The consequences that employers warned of are becoming reality.
UCHealth System in Colorado fired 119 people this week. Kaiser Permanente, based in California, has suspended more than 2,200 employees. And 400 workers have resigned from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit rather than get inoculated.
On Friday, UCHealth, a nonprofit system serving the Rocky Mountain region, sent the last of several email reminders to the 119 employees — 0.5 percent of its work force — who had not received a vaccination or a medical or religious exemption. They had already been removed from weekend schedules and were notified this week of their termination.
“Certainly we would have liked 100 percent compliance,” Dan Weaver, the vice president of communications, said in an interview on Wednesday. He said that the terminated employees had been “encouraged” to reapply for their positions if they got vaccinated.
Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health plans, announced its vaccination requirement on Aug. 2, when 78 percent of its work force had already been inoculated. A spokesman said this week that the level had risen to more than 92 percent.
Still, about 1 percent of Kaiser’s work force across the country — approximately 2,200 workers — were put on unpaid administrative leave because they had not met the requirement, the spokesman said. They have until Dec. 1 to get vaccinated to be able to return to work.
The Henry Ford Health System required its employees to comply with a vaccination requirement by last Friday. The system said on Tuesday that 99 percent of its 33,000 employees had been fully vaccinated, were soon to get their second dose or had received medical or religious exemptions.
About 400 employees have resigned over the requirement, but new hires have already made up for the loss, officials said.
At Henry Ford, Bob Riney, the chief operating officer and president of health care operations, said that people who had left the company could reapply once they were inoculated.
“We are doing all we can to keep those doors open,” Mr. Riney told reporters. “Whatever their choice, we wish them the very best and appreciate the years of service they provided our community and organization.”
Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health care provider, said on Monday that 1,400 employees — less than 2 percent of its staff — had declined to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and had to leave their jobs.
President Biden announced a mandate on Sept. 9 that requires workers at nearly every hospital and health system in the country to get vaccinated or be tested weekly for the coronavirus.