Novant says nearly 99% of workers are vaccinated; 375 face firings

CHARLOTTE — Novant Health said Tuesday that nearly 400 of its workers face dismissal for not complying with a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program.

Novant said that 1.4% of its overall workforce, or 375 employees, aren’t allowed to work for refusing to take the vaccine.

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 will have a five-day period to comply with the vaccine mandate or be dismissed.

[Novant, Atrium, health departments requiring all employees to get COVID-19 vaccine]

Novant said 98.6% of its more than 35,000 employees are in compliance. 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. Employees with just one Moderna or Pfizer dose have until Oct. 15 to get the second dose, according to Novant.

Meanwhile, UNC Health is extending the deadline for its employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine to Nov. 2. The original deadline was Tuesday.

Anyone not compliant with the UNC Health mandate as of Tuesday will go into a vaccine probationary period that provides a last chance to remain employed.

Officials with Novant Health said COVID-19 patients are dominating hospitalizations and, in an effort to retain some of its workforce, including doctors and nurses, the deadline for employees to comply with its mandatory vaccine program will be extended to Oct. 15.

The extended deadline gives employees an extra month to become fully immunized or request and receive a medical or religious exemption.

Some Novant employees have been outspoken about the policy, organizing protests this summer to express their opposition.

The hospital system said more than 98% of its employees are currently compliant, receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. The 375 employees who are not are suspended without pay and have five days to change their mind or they will be fired.

Novant Health released the following update related to its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program for employees:

Today, 98.6% of more than 35,000 team members are compliant with Novant Health’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination program. Team members are considered compliant if they have received the following: the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, a first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine — or if they applied for, and were granted, a medical or religious exemption. Team members who have started a two-dose vaccine series will now have until October 15 to get their second dose and remain in compliance.

Novant Health team members who have been granted a medical or religious exemption are required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, wear N95 respirator masks or other appropriate PPE, and eye-wear protection while working on Novant Health premises. These added safety measures are in place to ensure patient and team member safety and preserve staffing levels.

Beginning this week, approximately 375 team members — across 15 hospitals, 800 clinics and hundreds of outpatient facilities — have been confirmed to be non-compliant and are not able to report to work. They will have an opportunity to comply over a five-day, unpaid suspension period. If a team member remains non-compliant after this suspension period, he or she will have their employment with Novant Health terminated.

Several hospital workers told Channel 9 reporter Anthony Kustura that they are looking for work elsewhere or have already left Novant.

A nurse who wanted to remain anonymous said the workload is intensifying for the employees who are staying.

“We already were working across the country on a nursing shortage crisis,” the nurse said. “We don’t have the staff right now. We have so many beds closed because we don’t have the staff to work it either.”

In a statement Novant provided to Channel 9, the organization said it could not provide an exact number of resignations related to the vaccination requirement but did say “we believe the vaccine mandate will do more to preserve staffing levels while also protecting our patients, visitors, and team members.”

Novant employees who are granted an exemption from the vaccine are required to participate in weekly COVID-19 tests and wear additional personal protective equipment.

(WATCH: Health care workers against Novant, Atrium vaccine mandate protest in Raleigh)

The Associated Press contributed to this report.