Houston Methodist Hospital suspends 178 employees over COVID-19 vaccine requirement

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Group of Houston Methodist nurses protest vaccine job requirement
Monday was the deadline for employees to get the COVID vaccine or face losing their jobs, which led to a lawsuit involving more than 100 nurses.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A total of 178 employees at Houston Methodist Hospital have been suspended for not complying with the hospital's COVID-19 vaccine requirement for workers.

In a statement issued by Houston Methodist Tuesday evening, 24,947 employees complied and are fully vaccinated.

The 178 who did not comply were a mix of full- and part-time employees. They were not granted an exemption or deferral and have been suspended without pay for the next 14 days.

Of those employees, 27 have received one dose of vaccine, and the hospital says they're hopeful they will get their second doses soon.

Plus, Houston Methodist said 285 workers received a medical or religious exemption, and 332 were granted deferrals for pregnancy and other reasons.

"We won't have the final numbers for two weeks as employees can still get vaccinated with their second dose or with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine," read the statement. "I wish the number could be zero, but unfortunately, a small number of individuals have decided not to put their patients first."

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 gave workers a deadline of receiving the vaccine by June 7.

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

More than 115 workers are named on the lawsuit that claims their employer is forcing workers to be "human guinea pigs."

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

On Monday, one of the nurses suing Houston Methodist led a walkout as she completed her shift. Several employees from different branches and many supporters met at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital in support of her efforts.

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.

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

Monday was the deadline for employees to get the COVID vaccine or face losing their jobs, which led to a lawsuit involving more than 100 nurses.

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.

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

"While we celebrate this remarkable accomplishment, I know that [Wednesday] may be difficult for some who are sad about losing a colleague who's decided to not get vaccinated," read the statement. "We only wish them well and thank them for their past service to our community, and we must respect the decision they made."

The statement continued, "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 [Tuesday evening], several other major health care centers have followed our lead and have announced their own vaccine mandates, with many more to follow soon."

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.

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