More than 150 employees at a Houston hospital system who refused to comply with a recent policy that required hospital employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, have been fired or resigned.
Houston hospital system had required employees to be fully vaccinated by June 7. The next day, 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for not complying.
Patti Muck, a spokesperson for the Houston Methodist system, said 153 employees either resigned in the two-week suspension period or were fired.
The firings and resignations came after a federal judge on June 12 dismissed lawsuit filed by 117 employees over the requirement. The employees had claimed in the lawsuit that the policy, announced in April, violated their human rights. They likened their situation to medical experiments performed on unwilling victims in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, the AP reported.
But in his ruling, District Judge Lynn Hughes called the comparison “reprehensible”, stating that the claims made by the employees that the vaccines are experimental and dangerous are false.
The Judge dismissed the lawsuit, adding that if the employees didn’t like the vaccine requirement, they could look for job elsewhere.
“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus,” Hughes wrote. “It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer.”
Those who filed the lawsuit have already appealed the judge’s dismissal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the report.
Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Houston Methodist, said her director called her on Tuesday to ask if she’d gotten the vaccine yet or made any effort to do so. She said that when she replied “absolutely not,” she was told that she was terminated.
“We all knew we were getting fired today,” said Bridges, 39. “We knew unless we took that shot to come back, we were getting fired today. There was no ifs, ands or buts.”
“I’m hoping if we win this at a federal level then they’re going to create laws to protect employees from having to go through this anywhere else in the country,” said Bridges, who said she does not have confidence in the vaccine’s safety.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that while a small number of health problems have been reported, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective.
Marc Boom, the president and CEO of Houston Methodist’s president said nearly 25,000 of the hospital’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. The science proves that the vaccines are not only safe but necessary if we are going to turn the corner against COVID-19,” Boom said in a statement to employees.
“We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation,” Boom said.
Houston Methodist system was the first major U.S. health care system to announce vaccine requirements. The hospital system includes a medical center and six community hospitals.
Other hospital systems around the country, including in Washington, D.C., Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania and most recently New York, have followed Houston Methodist and have also gotten pushback.