Kentucky health systems fire staff who refuse vaccination

Some Kentucky health systems have fired employees who did not comply with their workplace's COVID-19 vaccination requirement, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader

By the end of the day Sept. 15, the requirement deadline, Morehead-based St. Claire HealthCare had fired 23 employees for noncompliance, hospital spokesperson Amy Riddle confirmed to Becker's

St. Claire announced its vaccine policy on Aug. 4. At that time, more than 70 percent of the health system's workforce was already vaccinated, the organization said in a news release. The last day for staff to initiate their vaccination or face involuntary separation of employment was Sept. 15. Twenty-three employees, or less than 1 percent of the health system's workforce, did not comply.

"We are proud of our commitment to our patients, their families and our staff," St. Claire President and CEO Donald H. Lloyd II said in the news release. "St. Claire will continue to provide the highest quality care in the safest possible environment to all those we are called to serve."

Ms. Riddle told the Herald-Leader workers who refused vaccination included full-time and part-time workers, as well staff members who worked on an as-needed basis. 

Med Center Health in Bowling Green has also fired workers who did not comply with the health system's vaccination requirement.

In a Sept. 3 news release, Med Center said 180 staff members were terminated because of its vaccination requirement; "however, at the same time, we have welcomed 178 new, vaccinated team members who have or will be joining us."

The health system announced its vaccination requirement in late July. The requirement gave those in leadership roles until Aug. 9 to receive their first dose and all other workers had through Sept. 1. 

As of Sept. 3, about 1,000 Med Center staff members had been vaccinated, bumping the health system's number of vaccinated staff to more than 3,500, according to a health system news release.

"We are very proud of our employees and physicians who are setting such a strong example for our community by choosing to be vaccinated. We encourage the community to follow the example of our healthcare team and get vaccinated for COVID-19," Med Center said in the news release. 

Kentucky health systems are among multiple U.S. health systems that have lost workers because of vaccination mandates. Other organizations are requiring the vaccination as a condition of employment but have not reached their requirement deadlines yet. President Joe Biden also unveiled Sept. 9 his administration's six-pronged approach to curb the pandemic, including vaccination requirements for federal workers and healthcare workers. 

Some hospitals have expressed concerns about staffing, particularly as hospitals are already strained amid the latest COVID-19 wave fueled by the delta variant.

In Kentucky, new daily COVID-19 hospitalization rates climbed 11 percent over the last two weeks, according to data tracked by The New York Times.


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