By Jack Phillips
A North Carolina health care system said it suspended hundreds of its employees after the firm implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, adding that workers who refuse to get vaccinated after five days will be fired.
“Beginning this week, approximately 375 team members—across 15 hospitals, 800 clinics and hundreds of outpatient facilities—have been confirmed to be non-compliant and are not able to report to work,” stated a press release from Novant Health, which is based in North Carolina but operates in other states.
“They will have an opportunity to comply over a five day, unpaid suspension period,” the release said. “If a team member remains non-compliant after this suspension period, he or she will have their employment with Novant Health terminated.”
The firm then claimed that about 98.5 percent of its workforce are compliant with the policy, meaning they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Workers who started a two-dose vaccine series have until Oct. 15 to get the second shot, Novant said.
Employees who have an exemption are required to get weekly COVID-19 testing, as well as wear N95 masks and eye protection, it added.
In a similar move, 125 workers with Indiana University Health, the biggest hospital system in the state, parted ways with the company, according to a news release issued last week. Those workers, it said, did not comply with the firm’s vaccine mandate.
“Indiana University Health has put the safety and well-being of patients and team members first by requiring employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 1,” the company said in a Sept. 16 statement. “After a two-week unpaid suspension period ending Sept. 14, a total of 125 employees, the equivalent of 61 full-time employees, chose not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and have left the organization.”
It comes as President Joe Biden on Sept. 9 announced he would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to penalize companies with 100 or more employees if they do not comply with his administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Under the mandate, details of which have not been released, private-sector workers would have to either get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing.
The president also said he would mandate that all health care workers who are employed at facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding get vaccinated.
Republican leaders, as well as some union bosses, have criticized Biden for the announcement and said it’s tantamount to federal overreach. Some governors and state attorneys general have threatened to file lawsuits against the mandate.