June 23, 2021 – More than 150 Houston Methodist hospital workers were fired or resigned Tuesday after refusing to follow a policy that requires employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The hospital system has demanded that its 26,000 workers get vaccinated or receive an exemption by June 7. Of these, 178 employees refused to be vaccinated and were suspended for 2 weeks. On Tuesday, 153 were made redundant or resigned, The Associated Press reported.
Workers who received a vaccine during the period of suspension were allowed to return to work. The hospital did not say how many workers followed the policy and returned to work, according to The New York Times.
Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse who led the crackdown on politics, told the AP that her manager called on Tuesday to ask if she had received the vaccine. She replied “absolutely not” and was fired.
“We all knew we were going to be made redundant today,” she told the AP. “We knew that unless we took that shot to come back, we were going to get fired today.”
As the policy deadline neared this month, Bridges and dozens of other employees demonstrated outside the hospital and said they would not be getting the shot. In addition, she and 116 other employees filed a complaint against the policy, saying the hospital “forced its employees to be human” guinea pigs as a condition of continued employment. “
June 12, the lawsuit was dismissed in Texas district court. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes said the vaccine the requirement did not violate federal laws. He also denounced the comparison of politics to medical experiments done in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
“Hospital workers are not participating in a human trial,” Hughes wrote in the decision. “They are licensed physicians, nurses, medical technicians and staff. “
Hughes wrote that the policy is part of the job, and if employees don’t want to follow the requirement, they can work elsewhere. Those who have filed a lawsuit have already appealed to the 5th US Court of Appeals, the AP reported.
“I hope if we win this federally, then they will create laws to protect employees from having to go through this anywhere else in the country,” Bridges told the AP.
Experts in legal and medical ethics have said the COVID-19 vaccine requirement is like other mandates for health care workers, like receiving a vaccine against influenza or other required vaccines, The New York Times reported. The requirements will likely be upheld by the courts if employers grant exemptions for medical conditions or religious objections.
“Health care workers have three particular ethical responsibilities, ”Arthur Caplan, PhD, medical ethicist at the New York University School of Medicine, told the journal.
“One is to protect the vulnerable, the people who are really at risk of getting a disease,” he said. “Second, put the interests of patients first. It doesn’t say “put your choice first”. Third, they are meant to do no harm.