More than 150 employees in a Houston hospital system who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine were fired or resigned after a judge ruled an employee’s cause for the vaccination requirement.
A spokesman for the Houston Methodist hospital system said 153 employees had resigned during the two-week suspension period or were laid off Tuesday.
The case on how far healthcare institutions can go to protect patients and others against coronavirus has been closely watched. It is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States But it will not be the end of the debate.
Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by 117 employees over the requirement. The hospital system’s decision in April to require vaccination for workers made it the first major U.S. health care system to do so.
Employees of Houston Methodists who filed the lawsuit compared their situation to medical experiments conducted on unsuspecting victims in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes said the comparison is “reprehensible” and said the claims made in the trial that the vaccines were experimental and dangerous are false.
Hughes, who dismissed the lawsuit on June 12, said that if employees did not like the requirement, they could go to work elsewhere.
Those who filed the lawsuit have already appealed the judge’s dismissal in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The hospital system had asked employees to complete their vaccination by June 7. On Monday, 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for disrespect.
Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse who is the main plaintiff in the case against the Houston Methodist, said her director called her Tuesday to ask if she had even had the vaccination or had made any effort to do so. She said that when she replied “absolutely not,” she was told she was fired.
“We all knew we were going to be fired today,” said Bridges, 39. “We knew if we didn’t make that move to come back, we would have been fired today. There were no ifs, ands or buts.”
He had worked for 6½ years in the in-hospital medical-surgical unit at Houston Methodist Hospital on the outskirts of Baytown.
Bridges said Tuesday was also his first day in his new job at a company that sends nurses into people’s homes.
“I hope that if we win this at the federal level then they will create laws to protect employees from having to go through this anywhere in the country,” said Bridges, who said she has no confidence in the safety vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that while a small number of health problems have been reported, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and very effective.
Other hospital systems across the country, including Washington, DC, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania and more recently New York, have followed the Houston Methodist and even got a return.
Legal experts say such vaccination requirements, particularly in a public health crisis, will likely continue to be confirmed in court as long as employers provide reasonable exemptions, even for medical conditions or religious objections.
Houston Methodist president and CEO Marc Boom said nearly 25,000 of the system’s more than 26,000 workers have been completely vaccinated against COVID-19.
“You’ve done the right thing. You’ve protected our patients, your colleagues, your families and our community. Science proves that vaccines are not only safe but necessary if we’re going to turn the corner against COVID-” 19, ”Boom said in a statement to employees.