Group of Houston Methodist nurses host walkout over COVID-19 vaccine job requirement

Wednesday, June 9, 2021
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- One of the nurses suing Houston Methodist Hospital over its COVID-19 vaccine requirement led a walkout Monday evening as she completed her shift.

Several employees from different branches and many supporters met at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital to greet the nurses with cheers and rounds of applause.

"We support their right to choose," said Betsy Larsen, a retired Houston Methodist nurse.

"We're not gonna put up with it were gonna fight back," said another supporter.

Jennifer Bridges told ABC13 she does not want to take the COVID-19 vaccine because it does not have full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccine is currently being used in the U.S. under emergency use authorization from the FDA. Pfizer began its full application for full approval last month.

On May 28, a group of 117 Houston Methodist employees sued the hospital system for requiring the vaccine as a condition of employment. The medical giant has given workers a deadline of receiving the vaccine by June 7 or face losing their jobs.

The lawsuit asks a federal court to prevent the hospital group from taking action against the employees.

Nurse on vaccines: 'We should be allowed to make our own decisions'

"We're all suspended right now," said Bridges. "We're supposed to meet with a federal judge this week so he can choose to let us go back to work."

READ MORE: Medical workers sue Houston Methodist over job requirement to receive COVID vaccine
Houston Methodist nurses plan walkout over vaccine requirement

Houston Methodist claims that most of their employees have complied with the vaccination deadline. But Bridges says that unless the courts intervene, Monday will be her final shift at the Baytown campus. She also claimed she will be suspended for two weeks without pay and eventually terminated.

The company says they support the rights of employees to peacefully gather, but they can't allow patient care to suffer.

Houston Methodist issued the following statement, in full: "Today is the deadline for Houston Methodist employees to comply with the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy. We are proud to report that almost 100 percent of our 26,000 employees have complied, making the right decision to fulfill their sacred obligation to protect our patients. Unfortunately, a few employees have not met the vaccine requirements and are inviting other employees to join them as they end their shifts today. 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. 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."

Houston Methodist's CEO Mark Boom has said it is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines, that the vaccine is safe and the best option, and that he stands by the decision.

"I don't think anyone should ever lose their job just because they do not want to get an injection that they are not comfortable with. They should have at least compromised with us and given us a chance since it is just emergency use authorization right now," she said.

Bridges had worked at the Baytown campus for six and a half years. She says she will start looking for another job if a federal judge does not step in. Since the start of the movement, a GoFundMe account has been created to support the cause.

READ ALSO: How many people in your area are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

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