More than 150 employees at a Houston hospital system who refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19 were fired or resigned after a judge dismissed a lawsuit against the employees over the vaccine requirement.
A spokesperson for the Houston Methodist Hospital System said 153 employees resigned during the two-week suspension period or were laid off on Tuesday.
The case over how far healthcare facilities can go to protect patients and others from the coronavirus has been closely watched. It’s believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, but that won’t 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 the vaccine for workers made it the first major U.S. healthcare system to do so.
The Houston Methodist employees who filed the complaint compared their situation to medical experiments performed on unintentional victims in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. US District Judge Lynn Hughes called the comparison “objectionable” and said the claims made in the lawsuit that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous are false.
Hughes, who dismissed the lawsuit on June 12, said if employees didn’t like the requirement, they could move to work elsewhere.
Those who have filed a lawsuit have already appealed the judge’s dismissal to the 5th US Court of Appeals.
The hospital system had required employees to complete their vaccinations by June 7. The next day, 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for not complying.
Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse who is the main plaintiff in the Houston Methodist lawsuit, said her manager called her Tuesday to ask if she had ever received the vaccine or if she had made an effort to do so. She said that when she replied “absolutely not”, she was told that she had been fired.
“We all knew we were going to get fired today,” said Bridges, 39. “We knew that unless we took that shot to come back, we were going to get fired today. There was no ifs and buts.
She had worked for over six years in the medical-surgical inpatient unit at the Houston Methodist Hospital in the suburb of Baytown.
Bridges said Tuesday was also his first day at his new job at a company that sends nurses to people’s homes.
“I hope if we win this federally, they will create laws to protect employees from having to go through this anywhere else in the country,” said Bridges, who said she did not trust the vaccine. security.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that although 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 most recently New York, have followed the Houston Methodist and have been pushed back as well.
Legal experts say these vaccine requirements, especially in the face of a public health crisis, are likely to continue to be upheld in court as long as employers provide reasonable exemptions, including for medical conditions or religious objections. .
Harris Methodist said some employees have been granted medical or religious exemptions and some have been suspended for pregnancy or other reasons.
But Houston Methodist President and CEO Marc Boom said nearly 25,000 of the system’s more than 26,000 workers have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“You did the right thing. You protected our patients, your colleagues, your families and our community. Science proves that vaccines are not only safe but necessary if we are to overcome COVID-19”, Boom said in a statement to employees.