More than 100 Novant Health employees terminated for not getting COVID-19 vaccine

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nearly 200 of 375 suspended Novant Health employees who were not vaccinated last week came into compliance with its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program, officials said Monday. The rest of the employees have been terminated.

Novant unveiled its mandatory vaccination policy on July 22, saying then that it would require full compliance by Sept. 15. In a news release, Novant Health said the affected workers would have a five-day period to comply with the vaccine mandate or be dismissed.

Last Tuesday, Novant said nearly 400 of its workers faced dismissal for not complying.

Now, the hospital system stressed that more than 99% of its more than 35,000 employees are currently compliant. It considers workers to be compliant if they have received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Because of that rate, officials said the hospital system can maintain staffing levels.

According to Novant, employees with just one Moderna or Pfizer dose have until Oct. 15 to get the second dose.

After 16 years with Novant Health, nurse Laura Rushing said she is looking for a new job. She had hoped to retire from the hospital, but said the denial of her exemption left her with no recourse.

“When they put the mandate out there, one thing I knew for sure was I was not gonna take the shot. So, I put in for a religious exemption and got denied,” Rushing said. “Who decided my religious exemption, the wording used was not good enough? It wasn’t as good as someone else’s? That just feels like discrimination and I didn’t appreciate it.”

(Watch Below: COVID-19 vaccination requirements for healthcare workers could impact staffing shortages)

Channel 9′s Tina Terry asked Novant if terminations and resignations related to the vaccine mandate will have an impact on staff shortages and on patient care. The hospital system sent the following statement:

“We are always recruiting, and any recruitment efforts would not be in direct response to the mandate. Like healthcare systems across the country, we are being impacted by a national nursing shortage, which existed prior to the pandemic and has been further exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We continue to be proactive in addressing this shortage, and have developed comprehensive staffing contingency plans to prepare for an array of different scenarios.”

Novant works to fill in positions

Officials said the health system experienced nursing shortages before the pandemic.

Novant Health Dr. David Priest said they are shifting employees around to fill in the holes. They are also utilizing traveling nurses from other areas to ensure patients are cared for.

Priest said that has been possible, and the health care system is hiring.

He stressed that health care workers have an ethical obligation to get the shot and protect their patients.

“The No. 1 medical ethical principle is, ‘We do not cause harm to patients or certainly caused their death,’” Priest said. “‘That it goes before everything else. It comes before my personal choice.’ And that’s what the principles we have to adhere to in medical ethics. And so, that’s what we’ve chosen to do. We’ve been in a deadly pandemic for 19 months. There are 680,000 Americans who have died, and we cannot contribute to that number, not a single time. One is too many.”

(Watch Below: Novant Health works to fill in positions)