The Houston Methodist system on April 1 informed employees that they would be required to get a vaccine on or before June 7 or submit documentation for an exemption.
Exemptions would only be based on a medical condition such as pregnancy deferment or sincerely held religious beliefs.
As of Tuesday, 24,947 workers have chosen to become fully vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, according to Marc Boom, the CEO of the system.
But, he told employees in an internal memo obtained by The Epoch Times, 178 workers either did not get fully vaccinated or did not get vaccinated at all.
“The small percentage of employees who did not comply with the policy are now suspended without pay for the next 14 days,” he wrote, adding that the workers “have decided not to put their patients first.”
According to the April 1 memo that was sent to employees in the hospital system, the workers who were suspended will be fired if they have not been fully vaccinated as of June 7.
Another 285 employees received a medical or religious exemption while 332 were granted deferrals for pregnancy and other reasons.
Boom told the workers who have been vaccinated that he was proud of them.
“You did the right thing. You protected our patients, your colleagues, your families, and our community. The science proves that the vaccines are not only safe, but necessary if we are going to turn the corner against COVID-19,” he wrote.
For those sad about “losing a colleague who’s decided not to get vaccinated,” he added, “we only wish them well and thank them for their past service to our community, and we must respect the decision they made.”
“Since I announced this mandate in April, Houston Methodist has been challenged by the media, some outspoken employees and even sued. As the first hospital system to mandate COVID-19 vaccines we were prepared for this. The criticism is sometimes the price we pay for leading medicine. As of today, several other major health care centers have followed our lead and have announced their own vaccine mandates, with many more to follow soon,” he said.
The system has received strong pushback for its mandate. Over 11 employees last month joined together to file a lawsuit, arguing that the system was “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”
The plaintiffs noted that the three COVID-19 vaccines currently being administered in the United States received emergency use authorization but none have been approved by U.S. drug regulators.
The suit asked the District Court in Montgomery County to block the system from terminating plaintiffs if they refused to get a vaccine and to declare the mandate invalid.
The system in response said that it is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines. It has mandated flu vaccines since 2009.
A federal agency said recently that businesses can require employees to get a vaccine.
Earlier this week, one of the nurses suing Houston Methodist led a walkout as she completed her shift.
Supporters met the group and cheered them.
“We’re all suspended right now,” Jennifer Bridges, a nurse, told KTRK. “We’re supposed to meet with a federal judge this week so he can choose to let us go back to work.”