Is healthcare seeing a rebound in newly vaccinated staff? Insights from 4 health systems

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As vaccination mandates have become all but universal across the healthcare industry, unvaccinated workers have few employment options. Suspended or terminated health system employees who wish to remain in the healthcare field may have to reconsider their stance on vaccinations, and some of these organizations are giving the option to former staff to rejoin if they get vaccinated. 

More than 2,500 hospitals and health systems in the U.S. had implemented mandatory vaccination policies for employees as of Sept. 27, according to the American Hospital Association. 

More recently, hospitals and health systems have had the responsibility to implement mandates removed, as new federal guidance now dictates the requirements for virtually all healthcare workers. On Nov. 4, CMS ruled that all eligible staff participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs were required to get vaccinated, affecting more than 17 million people and 76,000 healthcare providers. Adding to the CMS ruling, the Biden administration also mandated that by Jan. 4, all businesses with 100 or more employees must implement a vaccination mandate or abide by a regular testing regime. 

On Nov. 30, federal judges issued preliminary injunctions to halt the healthcare worker vaccination rule from taking effect. HHS appealed the decision Dec. 1. 

The overwhelming majority of healthcare workers are complying with vaccination mandates, according to 45 health systems; however, every system reported some workers resigning or being suspended. As of September 2021, 30 percent of healthcare workers were unvaccinated, according to the CDC.

If the federal rulings take effect, they will make it difficult for unvaccinated healthcare workers to seek employment both within the healthcare sector and outside of it within bigger companies. Those who are suspended are also unlikely to be able to access unemployment benefits given that their departure is likely to be deemed misconduct. 

Some health systems, already dealing with understaffing issues and concerned about exacerbating the challenges, are leaving the door open for former employees to return, pending vaccination.

Becker's spoke to four such health systems to find out how much of a rebound they saw in their newly vaccinated staff. 

Henry Ford Health System (Detroit). About 400 unvaccinated staff members chose not to get vaccinated and quit their jobs at Henry Ford Health System, the organization said Oct. 5. This tally represents about 1 percent of Henry Ford's 33,000-person workforce. As of Dec. 6, the health system had rehired 17 team members who opted to get vaccinated, a spokesperson told Becker's

Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.). The health system on Oct. 4 said it parted ways with 1,400 employees who refused to get vaccinated, representing less than 2 percent of its workforce. 

As of Nov. 19, Northwell's 77,000-person workforce — the largest in New York state — was fully vaccinated, a spokesperson told Becker's. The spokesperson did not share an exact number, but said "a couple hundred employees" have "changed their minds and presented proof of vaccination to return" to Northwell. 

Novant Health (Winston-Salem, N.C.). At Novant, 175 staff members who failed to get vaccinated by the system's Sept. 15 deadline were fired after an unpaid five-day suspension. The health system has a rehiring process for former team members who get vaccinated, a spokesperson told Becker's Nov. 30.

"We would estimate around a dozen team members came into compliance shortly after the mandate's deadline and were reinstated," the spokesperson said. "There may be additional team members who left the organization and come back through the traditional rehiring process that are not included in this group of reinstated team members as the deadline has long passed."

Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health. At Yale New Haven, 94 employees lost their jobs Oct. 18 after failing to get vaccinated. "Employees who were terminated for noncompliance are eligible for rehire but we have not had that happen yet," a spokesperson told Becker's Nov. 24.

Editor's note: This article was updated Dec. 6. 

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