A hospital system in New Jersey announced this week that it fired six employees who refused to comply with the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) said 99.7 percent of its employees, or 2,979, at the supervisor level and above have either gotten fully vaccinated or been approved for a medical or religious exemption or a deferral.
“Regrettably, six staff at the supervisor level and above have not complied with the mandate and are no longer employees of RWJBH, per our policy,” the system said in a statement to news outlets.
The system, the largest in New Jersey, announced the mandate in May.
The initial step was requiring all workers at the supervisor level and above to get all their shots by the end of June.
“As healthcare workers and as team members committed to providing a culture of safety, we have an obligation to do all we can to protect our patients and the communities we serve,” Barry Ostrowsky, president and CEO for RWJBarnabas Health, said at the time. “As a healthcare leader in the state, we must set the precedent to always provide the safest environment and protect the residents of New Jersey.”
RWJBH did not respond to emailed questions about the terminations, including whether the fired employees have threatened to sue.
Houston Methodist, one of the largest systems in Texas, was sued by employees earlier this year over its vaccine mandate.
A number of health systems across the United States have implemented policies forcing employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine or apply for a medical or religious exemption. Companies must grant such exemptions due to federal law.
The mandates have drawn pushback, including from the largest healthcare union in the country.
“Whether there is a legal challenge that we can make, or whether it’s just a pure organizational challenge that we can make, we are not going to just give in,” an official with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East said recently.
RWJBH plans to force lower-level employees, including physicians, to get vaccinated in the near future.
“At RWJBarnabas Health, we have an ethical and professional responsibility to protect our patients and ensure a safe, COVID-19 free environment,” the company said in its statement.