A large North Carolina hospital network said Tuesday that it has fired nearly 200 workers for failing to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Dr. David H. Priest, chief for safety for Novant Health, said at a briefing that about 175 staffers did not comply with the system's vaccination deadline.
"By doing that, by not getting vaccinated, they voluntarily resign," Priest said.
The departures will not affect staffing at the hospital system of over 35,000 employees, Priest said, because the hospital has been using temporary staff members throughout the pandemic to make up for shortages because of staff members who have fallen ill with Covid.
Novant Health, a not-for-profit health care system with headquarters in Winston-Salem, operates over 15 medical centers and numerous other facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Priest said one "datapoint that remains stagnant" is how Covid is disproportionally hospitalizing the unvaccinated at Novant Health's facilities.
"As of this morning, 97 percent of our patients with Covid-19 in our ICUs, 98 percent of Covid patients on ventilators right now are unvaccinated," Priest said. "This continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated — there are occasionally breakthrough cases, but you can still see that vaccines are holding up."
In a statement, Novant Health said staff members who obtained religious or medical exemptions will be required to use additional protective equipment and submit to weekly coronavirus testing.
"We are thrilled that the vast majority of team members gave Novant Health’s patients and visitors, as well as our team members, better protection against COVID-19 regardless of where they are in our health system," Novant Health said in a statement.
Priest said "it is OK" if a small number of people are upset about the requirement.
"We have been in a deadly pandemic for 19 months, there are 680,000 Americans who have died, and we cannot contribute to that number a single time. One is too many," he said.
President Joe Biden announced new vaccination mandates this month affecting federal workers and contractors, as well as Medicaid and Medicare providers — including hospitals — after vaccination rates lagged following a spring peak.
The firings at Novant Health represent one of the largest staff departures since hospitals began requiring vaccinations this year.
In Houston, over 150 people resigned or were fired in June because of the Houston Methodist hospital system's vaccine requirement.
Six people were fired at RWJBarnabas Health in New Jersey in June for vaccination noncompliance.