COVID-19 vaccine

Healthcare Workers Face Choice: Get Vaccinated Or Lose Your Job

Holy Cross Health is giving workers until September 21 to be vaccinated or -- if no exemptions apply -- lose their job

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Frustration with the unvaccinated is spreading, especially when the resisters are medical professionals who one might think would know better.

Now, some healthcare providers are demanding their workers get vaccinated.

They’ve survived multiple grueling stints on the front lines against COVID, yet one in four healthcare workers nationwide remain unvaccinated.

In South Florida, it’s even worse.

At Memorial Healthcare, about 40 percent are unvaccinated.

While there’s no mandate there yet, the chief of critical medicine says the incentive to get the vaccine stares workers in the face every day.

"With the spike in case we’re seeing, with our own staff seeing sick people being admitted, that is definitely a driver to more people getting vaccinated all the time," said Dr. Aharon Sareli.

There is a vaccine mandate coming to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, which had two COVID patients two weeks ago; today, it’s 50, approaching last year’s peak of 68.

"Of those 50, we have eight in the ICU, but none of those have been vaccinated," said Dr. Jose Lopez, Holy Cross chief medical. He noted 11 of the patients overall had received vaccines, but they are doing much better than the others who have been admitted.

With between 25 and 40 percent of co-workers unvaccinated, he said: "There was a fair amount of frustration and anger. Now that we’re seeing some of our colleagues and family members get sick, it’s moving just into sadness, to be honest, because we know a lot of these cases are preventable."

Holy Cross will now require all 2,500 employees get vaccinated.

"If they have not been vaccinated or have received an approved exemption they will no longer be able to work at Holy Cross Health by September 21st," he said, noting religious or medical exemptions will apply.

But otherwise — it’s get your shot or lose your job.

"We think it’s the best way to keep our staff, our colleagues and our community safe," Lopez said, "and at the same time Iive our values of safety, protecting our community."

Elsewhere, Baptist Health said a survey of its employees found 72 percent reporting they're vaccinated.

"We do not have a COVID-19 vaccine requirement currently in place, but are evaluating that option."

Same for Jackson Health System, where 40 percent of the employees are unvaccinated.

In a statement, Jackson said it “is considering mandating vaccination for all of our workforce to protect our patients, our employees, and our community… this is not a decision we take lightly, but vaccination is the only way to stop this pandemic.”

Cleveland Clinic would not reveal how many of its workers are protected by vaccine, but issued a statement saying “we are focusing on encouraging our caregivers to receive the vaccine, providing education and making vaccination as accessible as possible.”

University of Miami's health system is requiring everyone to be vaccinated before returning to the offices in September, except frontline workers in clinical settings. An email to UHealth's chief COVID medical officer seeking an explanation for that exemption has not been answered.

Only half of Broward Health's workers are vaccinated. “Fifty percent of our roughly 8,000 employees are vaccinated. We continue to require masking by visitors, caregivers and staff in our hospitals," Broward Health said in a statement.

When it comes to vaccine misinformation, it turns out it seeps even into the healthcare profession.

Sareli said he hopes he has the cure for that, "to educate and improve the knowledge of our own employees to dispel some of those untruths that are out there."

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