New Jersey Hospital System Fires Employees Who Didn’t Get COVID-19 Vaccine

July 22, 2021 Updated: July 22, 2021

A hospital system in New Jersey says that it has fired six senior employees who didn’t comply with the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) said 2,979 staff members, or 99.7 percent, at the supervisor level and above have either been fully vaccinated or been approved for a medical or religious exemption or a deferral as of July 14.

“Regrettably, six staff at the supervisor level and above have not complied with the mandate and are no longer employees of RWJBH, per our policy,” the system said in a July 21 statement to news outlets.

The hospital company, the largest in New Jersey, announced the mandate in May.

The initial step was to require all workers at the supervisor level and above to be vaccinated by the end of June.

“As health care workers and as team members committed to providing a culture of safety, we have an obligation to do all we can to protect our patients and the communities we serve,” Barry Ostrowsky, RWJBarnabas president and CEO, said at the time. “As a health care leader in the state, we must set the precedent to always provide the safest environment and protect the residents of New Jersey.”

RWJBH officials didn’t immediately respond to emailed questions about the terminations.

Houston Methodist, one of the largest hospital systems in Texas, was sued by employees earlier this year over its vaccine mandate. A judge tossed the case last month, although lawyers have filed an appeal that has yet to be ruled on.

A number of health systems across the United States have implemented policies forcing employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine or apply for a medical or religious exemption. Companies must grant such exemptions due to federal law. The mandates have drawn pushback, including from the largest health care union in the country.

“Whether there is a legal challenge that we can make, or whether it’s just a pure organizational challenge that we can make, we are not going to just give in,” an official with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East said recently.

Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association on July 21 advised all health care personnel to get vaccinated.

RWJBH plans to force lower-level employees, including physicians, to get vaccinated in the near future.

“At RWJBarnabas Health, we have an ethical and professional responsibility to protect our patients and ensure a safe, COVID-19 free environment,” the company said in its statement.

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