A Houston-based hospital system has suspended 178 employees without pay for two weeks for refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine, according to reports.
Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom wrote in an internal message obtained by the Washington Post Tuesday that nearly 25,000 of the health care system’s employees were fully vaccinated by Monday’s deadline — but some chose not to comply.
“Of these employees, 27 have received one dose of vaccine, so I am hopeful they will get their second doses soon,” Boom wrote.
“I know that today may be difficult for some who are sad about losing a colleague who’s decided to not get vaccinated. We only wish them well and thank them for their past service to our community, and we must respect the decision they made.”
Another 285 employees got a medical or religious exemption from the vaccine, while 332 workers were given deferrals due to pregnancy or other reasons, Boom wrote.
A group of 117 unvaccinated staffers at Houston Methodist Hospital sued the hospital system in May, claiming the required vaccinations are an infringement on their rights.
“No one should be forced to put something into their body if they’re not comfortable with it,” said Jennifer Bridges, a Houston Methodist nurse of six-plus years who has long opposed the policy.
Bridges told the Washington Post in May she has objected to getting the shot because vaccines authorized for emergency use nationwide have not been “fully” approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“I’m not anti-vaccine,” Bridge said last month. “I’ve had every vaccine known to man, except this one. As nurses and medical staff, everybody feels like you should have a right to choose what you put in your body.”
Bridges was among the workers who were suspended Monday, The Texan reported.
The lawsuit against Houston Methodist, filed in state court by Houston-based attorney Jared Woodfill, includes a quote from Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital David Bernard, according to the report.
“100% vaccination is more important than your individual freedom,” the lawsuit reads. “Every one of you is replaceable.”
The lawsuit, initially filed in state court, was reportedly moved last week to federal court.
“We will fight this all the way to the Supreme Court,” Bridges told The Texan Monday. “This is wrongful termination and a violation of our rights.”
Bridges was among dozens who protested the health care system’s policy outside a hospital in Baytown Monday.
“We’re all suspended right now,” Bridges told KTRK. “We’re supposed to meet with a federal judge this week so he can choose to let us go back to work.”
In a statement, Houston Methodist said some employees who didn’t get vaccinated invited other workers to join them Monday as they finished their shifts.
“We fully support the right of our employees to peacefully gather on their own time, but it is unacceptable to even suggest they abandon their patients to participate in this activity,” the statement read. “We have faith that our employees will continue putting our patients first. It is unfortunate that today’s milestone of Houston Methodist becoming the safest hospital system in the country is being overshadowed by a few disgruntled employees.”