N.C. Hospital Suspends Hundreds of Healthcare Workers Without Pay Amid Vaccine Mandate

(Donna King, Carolina Journal)  – Winston-Salem based Novant Health has suspended more than 300 employees effective this week for not getting a COVID-19 vaccine. According to a press release from the hospital system, those who have not either had one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine or a first dose of Moderna or Pfizer will not be allowed to report to work. Those with one dose will have until October 15 to get the second one.

The policy does not apply to those who have gotten a medical or religious exemption. Those with an exemption face weekly COVID-19 testing and must wear a N95 mask, PPE, and eyewear protection when on Novant premises.

The health system says that as a result 375 people will be suspended without pay and if they do not comply within five days they will be terminated from employment. There are 35,000 staff members across the system’s 15 hospitals, 800 clinics and outpatient facilities.

“These added safety measures are in place to ensure patient and team member safety and preserve staffing levels,” Novant Health stated in a press release.

In an emailed response to questions from Carolina Journal, Novant Health’s communications director Megan Rivers wrote that the mandate also applies to Novant’s remote employees and those employees who are not patient-facing.

North Carolina is an “at will” employment state and there is not currently a law against a company requiring a vaccine for employment.

In a Tweet Wednesday Dr. Martin Kulldorff, infectious disease expert at Harvard Medical School, tweeted:

To best protect frail patients, smart hospitals and nursing homes would hire staff who have already had Covid, as they have stronger longer lasting immunity than the vaccinated. https://t.co/d14kTPnCWk

— Martin Kulldorff (@MartinKulldorff) September 22, 2021

Still, Atrium Health, also in North Carolina, is giving employees, medical students, contractors, and remote workers until October 31, 2021 to have completed the two-dose vaccine, unless they have an approved exemption. That includes students from Concord’s Cabarrus College of Health Sciences who are studying to enter the healthcare workforce and are earning their practical experience there.

“Students who do not follow this policy will be assessed a late fee and face consequences (suspension from class/lab/clinical/fieldwork) up to and including dismissal from the college,” a vaccine information page on their website reads.

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